I had been with my partner for two years before I discovered she was cheating.
We argued a lot and eventually split up. It was tough because we worked in the same industry.
Shortly after our break up, I realised people were acting strangely around me, and I asked a friend what was going on. She showed me a group chat between my co-workers and friends. My ex had shared nude photos of me on it. I was unbelievably angry. First she had cheated on me, and now this!
What’s more, because my ex and I worked in the same industry, and I needed to pay my rent, I had to work alongside people who had seen my images and hadn’t tried to help. So it wasn’t just my ex who had betrayed me.
It was just so embarrassing. Those images weren’t ever meant to be seen by anyone except my ex.
I confronted my ex and she said she had been upset that we broke up, so had wanted to punish me. She felt bad, but didn’t think it was a big deal. She said that as I had sent her the images, they were hers and she could do what she wanted with them. Even though this happened ages ago, I still can’t believe she did it.
I’ve never told my family what happened. I really felt like an idiot. I was an intelligent woman in my 30s who had managed to get myself into this bloody awful situation.
For a while, I couldn’t control my anger and stress about it. I thought I would explode. I felt like I couldn’t trust anyone, anywhere. Eventually, the isolation got too much and I knew I needed help. I called Lifeline to talk it through. I eventually went to my GP and got referred to a good psychologist. She helped me reconnect with people I could trust and find a different job.
What Jess wants others to know
There is never an excuse for sharing someone’s personal photos. While I was so upset at the start, and I still am, I also think I dodged a bullet by not being with my ex any more. This whole thing showed me her true colours.
At the start, I really did blame myself and question myself. So, if that’s how you feel, know it’s a completely normal part experiencing image-based abuse.
It is possible to put the feelings of shame behind you. I am now at the point where I refuse to feel shame. I have finally moved on. I have great friends who know what happened and support me.
I want people to know that they can be strong and survive. Other people will forget, even if you don’t. It is the person who sent the photo, and those who looked at it, that have the problem.
*Jess’s story combines experiences and emotions of a number of individuals in this situation.