Imagine being in a loving, committed long-distance relationship and your fiancé requests nude pictures. You send some because you trust him implicitly, he’s also sharing his naked images, and this is the man you’re planning a life with.
Now imagine, two years later, you discover one of your private full frontal nudes displayed publicly on his Twitter account. Your business has been tagged and he has written: “This is the thief and liar who calls herself a counselor. She’s a gold digger who uses people.”
The victim of this particular attack is a friend I’ll call Joan. She is the only parent and sole provider for two children that she wants to protect – hence the alias.
As horrified as she was to discover the betrayal of the man she’d been in love with for three-and-a-half years, she wasn’t ashamed of her picture nor shocked that he posted it. He had threatened that if she didn’t comply with his demands by a certain time he would embarrass her, and after seeing an alarming new side of him since their recent break up, she could envision him doing almost anything.
Of course, there are two sides to every story, so detailing the specifics of their relationship or the subsequent deterioration of it is insignificant. What is significant is that he publicly posted a naked picture of someone against their will with a defamatory statement. Anyone who does that should lose all credibility and respect.
The man responsible for this repulsive act is a firefighter in Texas. If ever there was a group of individuals who would be aghast at his dishonourable conduct, professional heroes such as these would be it.
When Joan discovered her naked photo posted to Twitter, she immediately reported it to the social media site. An hour later he posted it a second time stating that she uses people and destroys lives. He then tried to connect with her children.
Joan contacted the RCMP in West Kelowna where she lives, the police in Texas where he lives, the pastor of his church and the fire department where he works. The pastor and the fire marshal responded with a promise to investigate.
After 36 hours the pictures were removed from Twitter, but his account stayed active. Joan now worries they’ll appear again within her professional circle or on revenge porn sites. She’s constantly in surveillance mode, glued to her electronics, feeling like a sitting duck.
Distressed at the prospect of enraging him further, she’s terrified what could happen next from the man who texted that he didn’t care if he went to jail.
“Out of fear I planned to surrender to his blackmail,” she said. “But when it came right down to it, I didn’t feel like I had a choice. I teach my children to stand up to bullies. I felt physically ill at the idea of not standing up for myself or any other woman he may do this to. It’s like giving in to a terrorist.”
This was more than a betrayal for Joan.
“It was an unconscionable act,” she said. “That someone would love and appreciate my body when they got what they wanted, and then use it against me when they didn’t shows an age old power dynamic of entitlement and ownership.”
And the even bigger issue for her was safety. There’s no control over where those pictures went, who saw and shared them or how they might be used. It puts her and her children at risk for stalkers, sexual predators and offenders. It could also impact her ability to provide for them.
Many people will question Joan for sending him pictures in the first place.
“This reaction highlights an underlying attitude of misogyny,” she said. “People shouldn’t be asking ‘Why did she?’ but ‘How could he?’ They should be appalled at his abhorrent behaviour. Friends and colleagues should find it so totally unacceptable and repugnant that they look at him in a different light entirely. The change in our society will come when men stand up and hold others accountable and say this is not okay. Because as women, we should be able to look, act, share, speak and exist without the inhibition that lies in wondering how any of that might be used against us.”
The change will also come when people understand that she has nothing to be ashamed of. He is the criminal who sexually violated and exploited her.
For more information visit EndRevengePorn.org and CyberCivilRights.org
Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at LoriWelbourne.com