How long be­fore per­pe­tra­tors of re­venge porn and cy­ber-bul­ly­ing pay the price?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By

Faye-Chantelle Mon­de­sir

Ear­lier this month Saint Lu­cia ex­pe­ri­enced an­other chill­ing episode con­cern­ing use of the In­ter­net to ma­lign or black­mail a woman. The mat­ter was re­ported by the STAR (9 Jan­uary). Of course, many other sim­i­lar in­ci­dents have gone un­re­ported, mainly be­cause those tar­geted are re­luc­tant to come for­ward - rem­i­nis­cent of rape vic­tims.

How­ever, this week two vic­tims of so-called “re­venge porn” sat down to tell the STAR how they found them­selves tar­gets of cy­ber-bul­ly­ing by for­mer lovers.

“We had been to­gether for nine months and I trusted him,” said San­dra - not her real name. “It turned out to be the worst mis­take I’ve ever made.”

As San­dra re­called it: “The whole thing started al­most right af­ter we started be­ing in­ti­mate.” Es­pe­cially when they were apart, he would re­quest ex­plicit pic­tures. And al­though she was never com­fort­able with the idea, she sent him nude pho­tos.

“I con­vinced my­self it was no big deal. It’s pretty com­mon that women send their lovers ex­plicit pic­tures of them­selves. He was my boyfriend. It never oc­curred to me that he’d want to hurt me as he did.”

For rea­sons San­dra chose not to dis­cuss, she ended the re­la­tion­ship, a de­ci­sion that did not go down well with her boyfriend. “He re­tal­i­ated at first by telling em­bar­rass­ing tales about me. He said I was see­ing some­one else and didn’t have the guts to tell him the truth. Not much later he threat­ened to cir­cu­late the pic­tures I’d sent him if I didn’t tell him what he wanted to hear.”

So far it ap­pears he has not car­ried out his threats but San­dra lives ev­ery day in fear that he will. “I don’t know how I would re­act, what I would say to rel­a­tives and close friends, if the pic­tures should show up on the In­ter­net or in the wrong hands,” said San­dra. “It’s a ter­ri­ble po­si­tion to be in.”

In con­trast, a for­mer bank em­ployee told me she had to leave town af­ter ex­plicit pic­tures of her were put on the In­ter­net by a for­mer lover.

“We were ac­tu­ally en­gaged,” said Fiona, “but he be­came ex­tremely con­trol­ling. If I wanted to visit friends on my own, he would an­grily de­mand whether I would go out alone af­ter we were mar­ried.”

In spite of the fi­ancé’s at­ti­tude they de­cided to share an apart­ment, which is when he took to bat­ter­ing Fiona. “I loved him very much,” she con­fessed, “but I de­cided, for my per­sonal safety, to pack up and move out.”

Just days later she no­ticed two girls at her work­place point­ing at her and gig­gling.

“It seemed odd but it was not un­til I took my lunch break and picked up my phone that the sad truth hit me. I could not be­lieve I was see­ing a sex tape I had done with my for­mer fi­ancé and an­other girl,” said Fiona, “and I re­al­ized it was be­ing cir­cu­lated. Even more hurt­ful were the re­lated texts. I was dev­as­tated. I left work and tried call­ing him from home but he would not take my calls.”

They made con­tact the next day and he de­nied any re­spon­si­bil­ity. He said he sus­pected some­one else had used his com­puter. San­dra knew bet­ter, if too late.

“Peo­ple were say­ing all kinds of things about me and com­ing to my work­place just to see who I was. To tell you the truth, at one point I ac­tu­ally con­tem­plated sui­cide.”

She has since taken refuge in the U.S. “But ev­ery­time I bump into a Saint Lu­cian,” she told me via Skype, “my heart drops. I can never be cer­tain who has not seen me as only a lover should.”

In a re­cent in­ter­view op­po­si­tion leader Gale Rigob­ert raised this ques­tion: Do women have an im­me­di­ate sense of what their rights are where cy­ber-bul­ly­ing is con­cerned?

“There are a lot of women,” she said, “who are be­ing black­mailed in so many ways. But I have al­ways said women must never be ashamed for hav­ing con­sen­su­ally agreed to sex­ual acts. What you do with some­one you love should not be held against you. Nei­ther should be­ing a vic­tim of rape. It is the per­pe­tra­tor who should be ashamed of him­self, who should be shunned, ex­posed and pros­e­cuted.”

En­cour­ag­ing wise words, yes, but it will be a while be­fore Saint Lu­cians fully un­der­stand the les­son in Rigob­ert’s words. And that’s a pity.

Op­po­si­tion Leader Gale Rigob­ert has been speak­ing out against rape and cy­ber-bul­ly­ing.

But how ef­fec­tive have her words been?

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