My ex-boyfriend was the first one to put me out there, exposing me in my most intimate moments. He did it for control. He did it for revenge. He did it for whatever reasons perpetrators normally have for stalking, harassing, and violating others.
At no point was I allowed to escape and move on. The internet made it possible for my ex and strangers to reach into my life, no matter where I was, and destroy everything I was trying to build. And nobody was willing to stop him.
I was the second person to put myself out there. When I couldn't stand hiding anymore, having changed my name and lived in fear for years, I took back control of my life. I took it back by saying:
Yes that's me in those pictures, in that video, and I am not ashamed. I have a right to live my life and not be afraid.
That was the birth of End Revenge Porn, which turned into the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI). Every step in building CCRI has been a learning experience, both in the logistics of starting an organization and in how a movement takes on a life of its own.
We have barely begun, but we find ourselves buoyed by overwhelming support, even as we receive a stream of hateful messages from strangers. This is a culture war, but it is one I have faith we will win, perhaps more quickly than our opposition expects.
California's SB255 "revenge porn law", signed into effect by Governor Jerry Brown late last week, was a bittersweet victory for us. Finally, lawmakers and the public acknowledged revenge porn as a problem to be solved.
But that acknowledgement was tainted by the attitude that no matter how reprehensible the actions of perpetrators, the victims somehow deserved what they got. To be told that victims like me were too "stupid" to be provided the protection of the law, and to have that attitude written into the law was crushing. People who have taken pictures of themselves in their most private moments, and shared them as part of an intimate relationship with one person, will find no protection inCalifornia. For the moment.
CCRI has been successful so far because I don't just see the gaping holes in our legal system; I experience them firsthand. On Thursday, I received word that the criminal case against my ex is being dismissed. The police told me that they were able to link the IP address from his house to the postings. However, without a warrant to prove he was the one sitting behind the computer committing the crime, which could only be obtained if his crime was a felony, they have nothing.
Not only do we need strong, comprehensive laws on the books, we need them to be felonies so that law enforcement will be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the perpetrator is the one behind the postings. Other states will pass laws, and California will strengthen its law because this issue will only grow.
As victims continue to suffer the physical and psychological fallout of this violation, the public will demand action. The purpose of CCRI and the End Revenge Porn campaign, beyond supporting victims, is to speed the public to that conclusion by making people acknowledge the suffering of those victims.