Priya’s story

I was in my 20s when I met my dream man. I had come out of a long relationship and was happy to find someone who cared for me again.

We moved in together a few months after we started dating. Sometimes when we were apart we texted one another sexual photos, and one night we made a sex tape together. It was special and part of the world we created together – and I thought it was just about the two of us.

Priya standing by a wall

But after about 18 months, he lost his job and got into financial trouble. He started relying on me more and more and, at the same time, he became physically aggressive and controlling. He asked where I was going and who I was talking to, and criticised most things I did. I finally decided to leave him. It was heartbreaking that something which had started off so promisingly ended up like this.

I moved in with a friend, but my ex broke into my new unit and started repeatedly calling my work begging to talk to me. I refused because I knew he was controlling and this wasn’t the kind of relationship I wanted to be in.

A month or so later I started receiving unwanted phone calls and visits from men asking for sex. At first I thought there had been some mix up with my number, but eventually one of them showed me dating profiles with my name, photos, video and address. My ex had set up the profiles and shared our sex tape online. It was so humiliating to think this tape was out there, and the calls just kept coming.

I thought that moving house and changing my address and phone number would help, but the abuse didn’t end: he found my new address and the calls and unwanted late-night visitors continued.

I told my mum about the abuse, and reported it to the police.

Mum was shocked but supportive. She helped me focus on staying and feeling safe. The police visited my ex to warn him and told me to contact the dating sites. A couple took down the fake profiles, but others didn’t respond.

I ended up having to take heaps of leave from my job because of depression and anxiety, but I didn’t want to tell my work why I needed leave. In the end, they fired me. I was also forced to break a lease and move house in order to stay safe. For a while, I was living on a disability support pension because of my depression. Throughout all this, my mum has been absolutely amazing. She really stood by me and helped me realise this isn’t my fault. I have realised that if I want to move on, I have to start telling people what happened because that way I can get the support I need.

Seeing a counsellor was really important for my recovery – it’s something I have to do to get past this. With her help, I am working on a plan to rebuild my life with some training and a new job. Every day I feel a little bit wiser and stronger.

What Priya wants others to know

Be aware of what the red flags are for abusive and controlling behaviour and don’t put up with it. If your partner is jealous of your relationships with friends and family, or tries to control who you see and associate with, or limits your world in other ways to only allow in what is important to them, you might be in an abusive or controlling relationship. If I had been able to read the signs more clearly, perhaps I would have left the relationship earlier and protected myself more. I wish I had known what these signs before I let him take photos and video. Even so, knowing how deep his controlling behaviour runs, I now believe if he hadn’t got to me that way he would have gotten to me another way.

You have to believe your friends when they tell you it is not your fault.

Don’t wait to get help. Everyone who goes through this should get a counsellor who understands – it was the best and most important thing I did. Go and see your GP and ask if you qualify for a metal health plan to get some free sessions with a counsellor.

*Priya’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 try to remove and report abusive images.

Mitch

Mitch’s story

Growing up in regional Victoria, I didn’t know any openly gay guys in my town. It was pretty isolating. Online spaces were actually the only place I could meet other gay guys. Gay apps gave me the chance to talk to other guys and meet them.

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