I never thought of myself as someone who would send nude photos. I’m a professional in my early 40s, and I understand the power of images.
But then I met a man at an international conference and we quickly fell in love. Skype was the lifeline that kept the connection between us alive. We sometimes videochatted in ways that became sexual. I thought of our long-distance relationship as incredibly romantic. We met up every few months or so in person, but we maintained this sense of closeness and emotional connection that would have been impossible any other way. There is a word for this type of relationship in the US. If your partner lives on the opposite side of the country you are in a ‘bicoastal’ relationship. My boyfriend lived in the US and I lived on the east coast of Australia. We thought of ourselves as ‘biglobal’.
But in 2015, soon after I ended our relationship, explicit screenshots from our Skype conversations began to appear online. I’ll never forget the first time I saw those images. I thought it was the worst day of my life. He had sent me a number of increasingly aggressive emails, culminating in an email that contained a single link. The subject line read ‘take a look at yourself’.
My name and details were included with the images.
I thought that nothing would ever equal the shock and sense of disbelief that hit me at that moment. But over the last 18 months, I have relived that moment many times. For a while, he was emailing a new link every week. But far worse than this is the awkward conversations I’ve had to have with friends, relatives and new bosses, or the sideways glances from colleagues that let me know they have Googled my name. What I know now is that it is impossible to know who has seen those photos, and what they think of me.
It’s been a year now since my ex started sending the links and posting the images on fake social media accounts. I’ve hired legal experts, spent lots of money on take-down services and blocked the images from appearing in Google search results associated with my name. But I now know it is impossible to fully erase these images. My hope is that, over time, the damage he has done will fade, and that my name will not always be associated with them.
What Rebecca wants others to know
This happens to people who don’t knowingly share intimate images. I never imagined that my ex would take screen shots of our conversations.
If this, or something similar, happens to you, take action as soon as you can. Report any abusive images to the sites or social media services on which they were posted, block them from search engines, and hire a lawyer and ensure they have specialist experience in this area.
This was an incredibly difficult situation to deal with but I have managed to get through it.
*Rebecca’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.
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