#WomensLives, Revenge Porn and Closure

by , under #WomensLives, personal, Pirate

pri-imageIf you follow me on social media, you probably saw me post using the hashtag #WomensLives this week. BlogHer and SheKnows have partnered with PRI for the #WomensLives news incubator. It’s a non-profit effort to make sure that stories are seen, because only 24% of news stories are about women, and only 6% of stories highlight gender in/equality. (Nobody is getting paid for this – not SheKnows, and not me. We’re all involved because it’s the right thing to do)

When I was asked if I was interested – I immediately said yes. Because anyone who spends more that an hour with me generally learns that I am very much invested in gender equality, and feminism. I’ll be sharing stories with you here and there. And the first story posted hit a little close to home. Congresswoman Jackie Speier is on a quest to criminalize revenge porn, which is just one of the issues that women face online. Including threats of rape for expressing opinions about inequality or being doxxed (having private information like addresses, phone numbers and social security numbers posted online) simply for being a woman in a male dominated field. I could rant about the misogynistic GG (not going to spell it out to keep those creeps from finding this blog) for ages.

But when I started to think about how women are treated online, and revenge porn – it made me think of the very unsettling turn my offline life took last summer. In September I blogged about Celebrity Photo Hacks, and what was going on in my life. Just after the Fourth of July, TheBoy (my husband) and I learned that about a decade ago a close and trusted friend of ours had stolen a tape containing about 10 minutes of intimate moments of ours. He’d taken it from our things while helping us move, copied it, and put the tape back. We only learned of the theft because someone the friend was disputing with had the tape and was going to contact us (which is why I refer to them as the Extortionist)- so the friend (the Thief) told us first.

It shook my life to the core. I lived in a haze for a week. Doing the bare minimum to take care of my kids. Setting reminders to eat. I didn’t even want TheBoy to touch me, and we’re an exceptionally tactile couple.

It was Labor Day weekend when the news broke about the Celeb nude photo hacks, and I was in the midst of a vacation (panicking about having to be near the Thief in a social setting, actually) and woke up to messages from friends on the East Coast warning me to stay off social media. And I realized that I needed to share my story. My life had been upended knowing that two people had violated my trust and seen me naked might help people grasp how upsetting it was to celebrities- who experienced it on a much more massive scale than I did.

But #WomanLives reminded me that I never wrote about what’s happened in the 6 months since then.

I’ve been going to therapy. It’s been extremely helpful, and it’s helped me get my life back on track. I’ve stopped blaming myself, and I’m not letting this get in the way of how I dress or what I do. Because none of this was my fault.

We did finally get the tape back (which never would have happened without our lawyer’s help). It was the weekend of the Marvel Half Marathon weekend at Disneyland, and we had to buy a VHS player to verify that the tape was indeed ours.

It wasn’t easy. I couldn’t even watch it, the thought of having to do so made me sick to my stomach. But TheBoy needed to make sure the tape was what it said it was- so he did. And he’d been so strong through this, but this really hit him hard. The things that the Thief had seen, that the Extortionist also saw. It was something that was supposed to be private, was supposed to be ours alone.

We haven’t destroyed it. We wanted to. Certainly, neither of us want to view it again, so there isn’t much point in keeping it. But since neither of us are entirely confident that the Extortionist didn’t make a copy, we don’t want to destroy the only copy we have.

In most aspects, getting the tape back gave me closure. But it didn’t resolve everything. I’ve realized I will never understand the why behind any of it. Both the mindset of someone who would take something so private and personal, or of someone who would know about the theft for a decade, say nothing, and then decide to use it as leverage – using our intimate moments without caring what it did to us.

Just like I don’t understand how anyone on the internet can forget that there’s another human being on the other end of a computer, that someone else’s privacy matters. There will always be doubt that the copy we got back was the only copy made- I can’t imagine how difficult it is to know that your private pictures posted might never be completely off the internet.

We were limited by what we could do, both legally and by what we felt comfortable doing. While what happened was theft, and we could have pressed charges against either party (doing so would have affected more than just them, and honestly, our decision had everything to do with the third party than them) – does theft really describe the actual crime? Does it address that both parties violated us by watching the stolen tape?

Which brings me back to revenge porn. I felt helpless, and I know that victims of revenge porn feel the same way. Where I had some options- often victims of revenge porn have no legal options, since if the picture was posted by the person it had been sent to originally- legally, they have ownership. Laws haven’t caught up to technology. Not here, not with cyber bullying. And that’s something that needs to change.

In case you need a clearer example of why, in this very recent case from Oregon, a judge had to rule that a man who took upskirt photos of a 13 year old girl without her knowledge wasn’t breaking the law. Why? Because there aren’t any laws that cover using a cellphone to do that.

Your thoughts? I realize I covered a lot in this, but I definitely think we really need to address how outdated laws are when it comes to technology.

  • Constance Chamberlain

    The husband and I were discussing this case today as well. Was it wrong? Of course. Was it illegal? Sadly no. And that is certainly something that needs to change.

  • Tigger

    I agree that laws need to change. They unfortunately do not change fast enough to keep the pace, but one would think they’d be able to think AHEAD. There is zero way of asshat-proofing the world, but they should certainly be able to try and evolve as we go…