From the moment I exited the warmth of my mother’s womb and entered the enveloping chill of a judgmental world, I was wrapped in a blanket of shame. My hospital cries were pacified, my jungle gym bruises bandaged- tears wiped away and camouflaged with sticks and stones that claimed be more hurtful than words. Words, however, are sharper than sticks and stronger than stones- they have the capability to both break my bones and shatter my spirit. Despite disabilities and language barriers, every human being is born with the ability to speak. With this ability comes a cloak of consciousness- a filter that shades the truth and only reveals what is socially acceptable. In turn, some speak too much, while others not at all.

As a woman, my voice is often overshadowed by those of men. As a queer woman, my voice is trampled. As a woman suffering from mental illness, it is misunderstood. As a woman without shame, it is feared. Despite this, I speak. Despite this, I write.

When I was fifteen years old, I was a victim of revenge pornography. I was pressured into sending naked photographs to a boy that I liked. After several weeks, I told him that I no longer wished to continue our correspondence, because I was interested in someone else. He then promised he would ruin my life.

He posted the photographs on the internet and send them to my classmates. My naked body was displayed online like a piece of stolen artwork. My voice was stolen. I was in high school. I sat in chemistry class while my classmates whispered about me like I was a stolen diary- a dirty secret. For years, I refused to speak about what had happened to me. I allowed myself to fall victim to humiliation and guilt day after day. I let a boy's need for revenge dominate my every move.

I did not open up about what happened to me for four years. Within that time, I wallowed in fear of humiliation. I did not apply to major colleges or pursue huge dreams and accomplishments for fear that my achievements would spark the pictures to resurface. I hid in the shadow of my fourteen year old self who was a frightened victim of nonconsensual pornography.

One day I realized that freedom is my own choice- and words the weapon I’d use to break the chain of my oppressor. Instead of wallowing in fear, I set myself free by telling the story of what had happened to me. Through writing, I learned that I was not alone. I learned that my soul can create things more beautifully haunting than ghost stories, and that gardens can still grow in achingly empty places.

I believe that individuals are dealt disadvantages as opportunities to change how the world perceives people who are different. By embracing the scars, the hurt, and the raw truths of our mistakes and what has happened to us, we write our own strength. We publish our pasts and write shame off of the pages. We rewrite, we continue, we win.

Each second that I choose noise over silence- I win. When I reclaim my body, I win. I win, I win, I win.

If you see my naked body today, you will see words written on my kneecaps and wrists. You will see cracks that I have not covered. You will see seams that I have not sewn shut. I have stretch marks in my chest where my fear once lived. I’ve grown so much since then. Today, I swallow what has happened to me and spit it out into a book that everyone who has ever destroyed me will have to read- because what I write is more naked than I’ve ever been.

Revenge pornography is an illegal act. If you are the victim of this crime, you are not alone. You deserve to be heard. Know your cyber civil rights. Reclaim your voice. Take back your body. Do not be silent. Do not be afraid.

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Resources:

www.cybercivilrights.org

SPEAK UP: End Revenge Porn Crisis Line 844-878-CCRI

Change.Org Petition to Protect Victims: https://www.change.org/p/protect-victims-end-reven...


“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre
minds.” - Albert Einstein