I felt paralyzed as I looked at the screen.
Moments later, I began hyperventilating and crying hysterically. Not one part of it was okay. A few months earlier, I had made the mistake of trusting a college boyfriend with intimate pictures of myself and there I was staring at them on the internet.
It’s a story that happens all too often. Women, and even some men, face online abuse from exes. You feel betrayed, humiliated, and most of all scared that your body will forever be exposed on the internet for anyone to see. I felt naked in front of the world and was constantly being victimized by the comments complete strangers left about their sexual desires for my body. When someone stared at me for a second too long in public, I was paranoid they had seen the pictures and soon I was afraid to leave the house.
That horrifying discovery was the worst moment of my life so far. I spent the night inconsolable in the bathroom vomiting. My parents didn’t know what was wrong because I was too afraid to tell them that their little girl who grew up going to youth group and loving Jesus had sent pictures of herself naked to someone who then posted them online. I was home from my tight-knit Catholic university for the summer, but none of my friends from school lived close enough to be a real comfort. I even began to blame myself. “Why did I take those pictures? Did I even care about the worth of my body and not letting it be seen?”
Let me be clear— If you are the victim of revenge porn, it is not your fault, no matter how much pain and regret you feel over taking the pictures.
In all that devastation, I was certain my life was over and that it was my own fault. I prepared to delete my online presence, drop out of school, and I even looked into the process for changing my name. Thankfully, none of it went that far.
None of what happened was okay and there is no version of the story where God magically fixed it. However, in my deepest and darkest moment, I finally dropped down onto my knees in prayer and asked him to make it all go away. Of course, that prayer couldn’t possibly be answered that way since what was done had been done, but instead God answered in another way.
Just at the moment I needed to hear him most, I knocked over my Bible in frustration and it fell open onto the floor. It had opened to Hebrews 13:5: “I will never leave you or forsake you.”
In the moment that I was certain that the entire world was collapsing around me and that everyone would find out and judge me for taking those pictures, God reminded me that He was right there and had no plans of leaving me. Of course that didn’t change the circumstances of anything, but it reminded me that I wasn’t on this journey alone.
I found so much comfort in knowing that no matter what happened, Jesus wouldn’t be leaving my side and nobody could take him away from me. If you’ve ever fallen down from anything before, you know that you’re desperately grasping for anything to hold onto on your way down to help break your fall. For me, as my life was spiraling down, I grabbed onto Jesus. He was my constant during that time and was the thing that kept me steady.
I could’ve shoved him away and hid away from everything and everyone for the rest of my life, but part of me knew that things would never get better that way. I needed Jesus with me to steady the shaking grounds so I could walk the journey wherever it led. My prayer life grew so much stronger during this time because my personal tragedy meant I needed so much more personal support than any human person could give. I needed his grace to restore me.
I slowly began to heal, and focusing on God refocused me back to his goodness in this world. It became such a habit to rely on God that even when I woke up with night terrors I’d be instinctively holding onto my rosary. Even though something so evil happened to me, I learned that I could rely on him to pull me through. He is my rock and my foundation.
Eventually, the website took the pictures down after I emailed them and they haven’t popped up on the internet anywhere else in the several years since. I haven’t talked to my ex since our break up and I have no intentions to… However, I forgive him. What he did was so horrible and atrocious that it’s absolutely unforgivable, but I do forgive him.
I realized that not only for my sanity but also for the sake of his obvious struggle with purity, he needed my prayers more than he needed my anger. I’ll thankfully never understand how broken he must be with his sexual struggles, but I’ll always remember that I was hurt by that struggle. The old idea that a bully hurts another person because they’re even more hurt themselves made me think about this situation. As badly as I was hurt and violated, his sexual sin and being constantly bombarded by society’s porn addiction must be hurting him even more and he needs me to be his intercessor with God. God had helped me restore myself to peace and reclaimed my understanding of my own body’s worth through all of this and I hope and pray he does the same for my ex too. God’s mercy for my mistakes taught me how to be merciful to my ex for his and that forgiveness ended up setting me free.
No matter what the struggle may be in your life, God is who you can fall back on and be sure he’ll catch you. The love and mercy God has for you doesn’t fade away, even if soon it will seem as if nothing else in the world is good. The strongest person for you in your battle is the one who gave it all and defeated all sin and death. Even though he won’t magically change our circumstances, he’ll hold our head above the water so we don’t drown. So if you’re suffering with anything in this life, don’t be afraid to turn to him because he will hold your hand and walk with you the entire way.