TW: image-based sexual abuse, depression, suicidal thoughts
When I found out about the image-based sexual abuse (“Revenge Porn“) in August 2015, the first thing I thought about was how it was all my fault, how it was going to stay with me forever, and how the only way out of it was to die.
I’ve given myself a terrible time of victim-blaming and victim-shaming – there is nothing that anybody could insult me with that I haven’t already said to myself.
I used to think; if only I didn’t take those photos, if only I didn’t need male attention like society has told me to, if only I didn’t believe that sex was equal to love, if only I didn’t believe that being attractive was the key to happiness (fuck you patriarchy and capitalism).
It took me too long to realise that it was his fault and only his fault. He groomed me, he decided to post those pictures without my consent, he abused me.
Many people over the last few years have asked me why I think he did this to me – each time, I say the same thing; “It doesn’t really matter why, he’s just a terrible, terrible person.”
But a few days ago, the ‘why’ started to creep up on me. I was already feeling a bit low, and the negative thoughts spiralled until I was quietly sobbing whilst feeding my daughter her bottle before her bed time.
I started to question why he had decided to do this to me, why he couldn’t have just decided not to. I thought about how his actions took so much from me – and I wondered where I would be now if it wasn’t for that moment that he pressed publish.
I thought about how it’s always going to haunt me, how my name will always be linked to this, and what it has done to me; emotionally, mentally and financially (I haven’t been employed long-term for three years).
I continued to sob for a little while. It was one of those cries where however much I tried, I couldn’t really stop, like a leaking tap.
I reached out to another survivor of this abuse so that I could talk with somebody who could truly empathise. Ellie gave me some wonderful advice that I think many survivors of abuse would benefit from:
When I get trapped into that line of thought, I try to always remember that I could never control another person’s actions, no matter how detrimental to myself. When I start thinking things like, “if only x, y, or z hadn’t happened…,” I remember that it did; and, instead of banishing myself to an alternate reality where things are good and nothing bad has happened (i.e., what could’ve been), I bring myself to face it, because there can be a lot of resentment involved in staying in that alternate reality. I also find that it becomes easier to start blaming (yourself and other people) when entering that rabbit-hole (“if only I had never sent the photos,” “if only I had never met him,” “if only I weren’t so dumb,” “if only my parents loved me the right way,” etc.). Staying locked into the “if only’s” only keeps us in a space where we can’t grow because we’re too busy looking backwards and wishing for alternate realities that are already impossible.Consider this: it happened, what now? It’s obvious this person has no respect for you, your mental health, your emotional health, or financial health. So, what now?You have control. Maybe this control is hindered by shortcomings (mental health, etc.), but you know yourself and you know what you can control. I am also confident in your ability to be a strong person, because you have been for so long. I believe in you.
If you have been affected by image-based sexual abuse and need to talk to someone, please feel free to contact me or one of the following helplines and websites: