Ash’s story

I was 15 when my naked photo was shared without my consent.

My boyfriend at the time kept asking me for a naked photo. I didn’t feel comfortable, even though everyone else was doing it, so at first I refused. Then one night I was staying at a friend’s house with a group of my friends. Some of the other girls were texting pictures to their boyfriends, so I did it too. It seemed fun and exciting. I didn’t feel bad about it the next day, because my boyfriend was so pleased. It didn’t seem like such a big deal after all.

Ash sitting on rocks looking out to sea

But later, I found out that part of the reason he had been begging me for a photo was to win a bet with his friends. He and his friends had been sharing my photo through a group chat on WhatsApp. My friends were the ones who told me my photo had been shared around. I was humiliated and so stressed, because it felt like it was completely out of my control. I live in a small country town where it feels like everyone knows everything. I got really paranoid that everyone I knew had seen this picture.

When I asked my boyfriend why he had shared my photo, he showed no regret or remorse and said he could do what he wanted with my photo. I felt so hurt and betrayed, but I was also really shocked — I couldn’t believe this guy I trusted and loved was doing this to me. He was turning something I thought was intimate and special into a weapon to be used to hurt and humiliate me.

There was no way I was going to tell my parents.

I thought they would be disgusted with me. And telling the police wasn’t an option either. I felt this huge guilt because I thought the abuse was my fault – after all, I was the one who had agreed to share the photos to start with. I felt like everyone thought I was a slut, and stupid for getting myself into this situation. The feelings of depression and anxiety grew until I could no longer get out of bed. I stopped going out and missed a lot of school. I almost failed the year.

In the end, a teacher I trusted got the whole story out of me. She was so supportive and sympathetic, it felt great to be able to talk to an adult about what had happened. This teacher understood and didn’t judge me. She looked into it, but told me the school couldn’t help because the photo wasn’t taken at school, and my boyfriend was at a different school.

Even so, this teacher helped me stick it out at school and I ended up scraping through. I decided to move interstate to study, to make a fresh start. I know it’s silly, but I do still worry my parents will find out somehow, even though I know they wouldn’t judge me. The best thing has been the support of my friends, who have stuck by me and understand how I feel. I am starting to trust people again – it’s hard, but I’m definitely getting there. The whole experience has taught me that even though horrible things can happen, they don’t have to be a life sentence – you can get past them.

What Ash wants others to know

I want others to know this can happen to anyone. And that even if it takes a while to get over it, you will. The whole thing happened a couple of years ago, and I still get upset and angry about it sometimes, but I am definitely less embarrassed because I know how many people it happens to. Once you start talking about it, other people start telling you their story.

I want everyone to support their friend or family member if it happens to them and I want them to say, ‘it will be okay — your life is not over’.

I want others to know it is NEVER their fault.

There is nothing wrong with sharing a photo or video and you should be able to trust others. You’re not the one doing the wrong thing, they are.

You can still trust people. Start living your life again and don’t shut yourself away like I did. It’s not worth stuffing up your own life because of someone else’s dumb decisions.

*Ash’s story combines the experiences and emotions of a number of individuals in this situation. Stock photo. Posed by model.

You will find options for support and counselling services below. There are also a number of ways you can take action to report abusive images and try to have them removed.

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