This resource was developed out of research with survivors of cyber sexual assault (CSA): survivors who had gotten over their assault in some way, and who wanted to help others experiencing CSA. Here are a few of their stories (general stories are true, details are changed for privacy).
Chase, in Florida
“He was someone I trusted; I never imagined he could do this to me.” Chase was cyber sexually assaulted by his abusive ex-boyfriend.
A friend back in his hometown messages him, whom he has not spoken to for many years, “There are nude pictures of you on a porn website.” Chase is in complete and utter shock. He is completely frozen, like a deer in the headlights, over what is happening. He cries, his eyes overflowing with tears that run down his cheeks, not knowing what to do next. The following day, he decides to reach out to his friends and parents about what happened for emotional support. His friends are supportive in the sense that they feel terrible that he is going through this. His parents blame him, telling him he shouldn’t have put himself in this situation in the first place. Chase’s sadness turns into anger, which motivates him to express his rage and situation on social media. He receives varying responses such as “can’t believe that happened, stay strong” and “you shouldn’t share about this, you’re just creating more attention over your pictures.”
The comments pay a toll on his view of expressing himself on the internet and he begins to feel more victimized. Chase decides he wants to take legal action and find out who posted his images. That’s when he finds BADASS, an organization that tries to inform and help individuals who are victims of cyber sexual assault. He finds a pro bono lawyer that helps him get access to where the picture was being posted. That’s how he finds out that it is his abusive ex-boyfriend. He is now in the process of going through a legal battle that has been dragging on for over a year now. It is complicated since he and his ex live in different Florida counties, which complicates which police department takes the lead.
While waiting, Chase decides that this will not put a stop to him living his life. He did not want it to define his life. He wants to exert strength. BADASS helps him become a strong advocate as a cyber sexual assault survivor. They gave him the support he needs, more than the typical “that sucks, I’m sorry that happened to you.” He connected with others who went through similar experiences and finds strength in confiding with other cyber sexual assault survivors. “If someone had to be cyber sexually assaulted, I’m glad it’s me.” He feels strength after going through this, and he believes that he is strong enough to pull others through this experience and be a dedicated advocate for cyber sexual assault.
Lacy, in Canada
“Our children hang out with each other, and I let him come to my house all the time.” Lacy was cyber sexually assaulted by her ex-boyfriend and husband’s best friend.
A friend from college messages Lacy while she is on her way to work through Facebook that a sex video of her is on multiple porn websites. Completely horrified at the thought, she turns around and calls off of work. When she gets home, she starts looking at the videos that are posted of her.
Not only are there videos, but there are also pictures. Feeling humiliated, she immediately tries to get the photos down, and with the help of her friends, she is able to get them taken down. As she is going through the websites, she finds pictures and videos of her husband’s best friend’s wife on the website. Immediately she calls her husband (her husband was married to his best friend’s wife previously). She feels that he would be the only man that had these videos and pictures. It did not make sense to her, though, because her husband is a kind man. He denies that he could ever do that to her and his ex-wife. Lacy’s best friend looks more thoroughly at the websites and saw a familiar pattern of girls being posted. It isn’t just her and the ex-wife, but another six girls who were posted continuously, all living in the same county as her husband’s first wife. Her husband has not been with the other girls nor knows them, so she decides it could not be her husband.
Lacy starts searching the other girls on Facebook and is searching for a familiar friend who knows all of them. After extensive research and her best friend’s help, they find out that the only person who knows all of the women is her husband’s best friend. Leighton decides to confront her husband’s best friend, and he denies posting the images and videos. He expresses utter disgust that his wife is on a porn website. Lacy believes him, but her pictures keep getting re-posted. Lacy could not sleep at night, and she would play video games, bake, drink, and do everything that she could think of to get her mind off of the cyber sexual assault and fall asleep. She became obsessive about finding who would do this, so she started creating a spreadsheet and tracking the posting activity. Thankfully, with her friend’s help, she could follow the IP address, and it all led to her husband’s best friend. The posting times matched his work schedule, and the IP address led to his work and home area.
She did not know how to confront him again since he previously denied it. Lacy’s husband told his ex-wife about their suspicions, and she confronted her husband. She is so enraged, she can is able to get him to tell the truth. He calls every single woman he victimized and apologizes, even writes long text messages to explain how sorry he is. Leighton uses this to get a voice recording of him apologizing.
Lacy decides to take legal action, and she contacts the police. They are more than willing to help her. They are very responsive and take this case seriously. There are still hurdles to getting the case to trial, as it is all hearsay. Her caseworker informs her there is a possibility that with all the evidence (text messages, recordings, and data collection) that it still might not be enough. Lacy is still waiting for results, and it has already been going on for over a year.
Lacy still wondered how her abuser got some of the videos and pictures. Later, she confronts him again about obtaining the videos and pictures. He confesses that he got the videos and photos when he would come over and watch their kids: he went through their closet and stole it from their camera and laptop.
Lacy did not let this take over her life. In the beginning, she felt that her world was falling apart to the point where she felt like she was going crazy. After she met her caseworker and saw how seriously she took the case, Lacy found strength. With the support of her husband and her friends, and her job giving her space and understanding she needs, she has found the power to move on with her life and deal with the case at the same time.
Keith, in New Jersey
“I am utterly disgusted that a teacher from my high school would do this.” Keith was cyber sexually assaulted by his high school teacher.
Keith had left his hometown for college, and one night he gets a message from a high school classmate that there are nude pictures of him online. His classmate tells him that she checks this website once in a while because her friend used to be posted on it. He goes and looks at the photos and realizes the photos posted are ones that he sent to his ex-girlfriend. He feels that his ex-girlfriend wouldn’t do such a thing since they ended on decent terms (due to long distance). He contacts his ex-girlfriend, and she tells him that she didn’t do it. She lost her phone while they were dating and never saved it to her backup, so she hasn’t had the photos since then. He does not believe her and ends up ignoring her and tells her never to contact him. After an extensive search, Keith is able to find a pro bono lawyer.
The lawyer was able to find the poster’s IP address, and it leads to Keith’s old high school. Keith finds out that his old teacher takes photos and posts them on the website. This teacher is not close to Keith, and it was a teacher Keith had for an elective course for a semester. Keith never expects this teacher to do such a thing.
Keith is now in Seattle and the teacher is still in New Jersey, which creates a jurisdiction issue. Keith’s experience at the Seattle police station is that they take him very seriously, but they tell him that the case belongs to New Jersey since the teacher lives there. When Keith contacts the New Jersey police station about it, they brush him off and do not take his case seriously. The officer on the phone says that he will inquire about it and someone will call him. A week later, Keith asks about his investigation, and there is no record of it. Keith feels that the officer probably took it as a prank call and ignored his issue. After he finally gets his case presented to the police, they tell him that there not enough information and that it can not be the teacher. The officers make excuses, trying to rationalize that this can not be the teacher. The police station expresses that there is no case and that following up with it further would be a waste of time. Keith decides to sue the teacher with his pro bono lawyer since New Jersey’s police do not take it seriously.
As the case drags out and Keith’s hometown gets word of what’s going on, the teacher decides to resign from the school and offers Keith a $30,000 settlement to get the case thrown out. Keith refuses, as it is not the money he is worried about, but the destruction it causes to his life.
Keith hit a low point and became so depressed, feeling that his life is ruined. After a lot of therapy and support from family and friends, he finds strength. At some point, he gets “over it” and did not want to let the teacher win by ruining the rest of his life because of this. Keith has been going through this battle for a little over a year now. He’s become more private with his social media, allowing only close individuals to see his content and making most things completely private. He may have changed some aspects of his life, but he finds strength in what has happened to him. He wants justice, and it makes him more confident in fighting for his case.