An Involuntary Porn Star: My Story
Every once in a while, it's a good thing to google your name. Over the past several years, I have made a habit of it, but I've never really expected to see anything bad.
A couple of years ago, that all changed.
One night, I googled my name and a website link popped up. It was a website that claimed to have images of me.
I figured it was some kind of spam website but I clicked on it out of curiosity.
What I saw before me knocked the wind out of me.
There it was: A gallery devoted completely to nude photos of just me. And, as if that weren't enough, my full name, the city where I live, and my occupation rested boldly above my photos.
I was mortified.
My mind raced back to the photos. I knew who I had been with when the photos were taken, but I couldn't believe he would do something like this to me. It had been years since I had broken up with him. I told myself that it must've been some thug who had found my lost phone, downloaded my photos from it and posted them online for money.
But, suddenly, my eyes were drawn to the bottom of the page.
"For more galleries of user Jack897, click here."
There they were. Two more victims. Just as in my case, their names, cities, and occupations were listed above their nude bodies. I ran a search query on their names and left messages for both of them.
They got back to me early the next morning, and they both confirmed that they had dated the same guy I had dated a few years earlier. They were completely shocked to learn of their photos.
I thought for sure that the guy was commiting a crime, so I filed a police report with the local police department.
"I'm sorry," the investigator said, "but you consented to the taking of the photos, and you weren't 17 years-old or younger when they were taken, so it's not a crime."
I did my best to swallow the lump in my throat.
"But this is so wrong," I said. "I didn't consent to the publication of the photos. My dignity has been stripped from me. I feel like I've been raped, and you're telling me that this is not considered harassment?"
He sighed. "We have to go by state law, and state law says that the publication of nude photos without your consent is not harassment, because you consented to the taking of the photos. At this point, if you want, you can file a civil lawsuit for invasion of privacy."
"Yeah, right," I said. "I don't have thousands of dollars to hire an attorney."
What good is a civil right if you don't have the money to defend it? It's pretty much worthless.
I sent a "cease and desist" letter to the perpetrator.
He ignored my email. No surprise there.
Finally, I emailed the webmaster, claiming copyright infringement, and he took the links down within two days.
Still, I could not rest easy. What in the world would stop this guy from doing this again?
Apparently, nothing. One year later, the photos were up again. This time, there were more. And to top it all off, he had pulled pictures from my social media pages and posted them next to my nude photos. All of my photos were branded with the porn site's name in the bottom right hand corner.
Similarly to the last time, he had posted nude galleries of other women in my city. I live in Naples, Florida, which is a very small town, so I recognized two of them. Most of their heads were obviously photoshopped onto nude bodies, but some of them were decently manipulated, and you really had to scrutinize the photos to detect it. And now, he was impersonating each one of us by identifying us as the posters of our own photos.
I called each woman to inform her of the photos, but each one was too scared or humiliated to do anything.
Over the next few months, the photos multiplied on a few more sites.
To this day, the photos of me and the other victims are still up.
I have been told not to think about it, and I have been told that people really don't google other people's names, so I shouldn't worry.
But what these people don't realize is that, as a victim of Revenge Porn, I am not victimized one time. I am victimized every time someone types my name into the computer. The crime scene is right before everyone's eyes, played out again and again, and, ironically, I am treated as if I am the one who has committed the crime. I am victimized every time someone tells me that it's my fault because I consented to the taking of the photos.
But when someone shifts the blame to me, do you know what I say? I say, "Congratulations, because that's exactly what the perpetrator wants you to think. He wants you to think I am a dumb whore who makes poor decisions."
People just don't get it. And you know what? Most of them won't get it until it happens to them or someone they love.
Someday, though, lawmakers will wake up and see the unauthorized publication of a woman's nude body for what it really is: Harassment. Pure and simple.
Not too long ago, women who were sexually harassed were not taken seriously and were often blamed for the harassment. But with strong women, the laws changed. And I know, with strong women, we can change laws again.
Please join me in the fight to free women of the humiliation and hurt that comes from Revenge Porn. Join me in petitioning for new legislation that criminalizes the posting of women's unauthorized intimate photos. The laws will take a little time to catch up, but in the meantime, I want you to know that you are not alone. Until then, know that you have women who are rooting for you, and one of them is right here.
- Bekah Wells