A few years ago, I was sitting at my teacher’s desk while my students took their religion test. I was going back and forth between grading papers and checking my email when suddenly I saw one, then ten, then twenty friend requests come in to my Facebook inbox from men that I didn’t know. I checked my page to see what was going on and if I was getting spammed. When I checked my inbox there were messages… gross ones.
I didn’t know what I did to bring all of this creepiness into my life. I ignored the messages and just deleted them thinking it was some kind of awful mistake that all of these people were messaging me. The next day I received even more friend requests and then finally a message that made my heart stop. Someone was kind enough to send me screenshots from a couple of popular sites… it was a picture of my face photoshopped onto a naked woman’s body with all my contact information listed. I couldn’t believe it.
I was struck with absolute horror and my stomach turned in disgust that someone would do this to me. I had never taken a naked picture in my life! I felt so shameful knowing that all of these men in my friend requests were looking at a picture of someone who they thought was me. People were lusting after this picture of someone they probably imagined was a consenting adult. I was horrified at the thought that one of my students, my boss, my friends, would come across this and how much damage that would produce- even though it was fake.
I felt like it was real. The person who sent me the screenshot to me said they were so sorry someone had shared my pictures… but they weren’t even mine. Somewhere in the world, however, there was someone who did take that picture of herself. My heart broke at the thought that she was also being exploited through this. I felt for my poor sister in Christ.
For weeks I would report these pictures and they would be taken down only to pop back up a couple of days later with more raunchy captions. I felt like I wasn’t safe when I would think about the ill-intentioned people who might be on these sites seeing the place I worked next to the naked picture of “me”. I would have nightmares about them showing up at my work and following me through the parking lot. Out of fear for my safety, I told the priest who was my boss at the time about what I was going through. Thanks be to God, he took me under his wing and immediately reached out to the police in our school district to report everything that happened. He told them to keep an eye on me and make sure I was okay- and told me to call him if I ever felt unsafe.
That same day I went to my hometown police station with my dad and received so much kindness and concern from them as well. I got several calls from the lieutenant who took down my story over the following days to ensure that all was well and to give an update of the status of things. I couldn’t understand why I didn’t do this earlier. It was partly out of shame. I was so embarrassed at the thought that they might not believe my story. For fear of being misunderstood or disbelieved, I suffered in silence.
The whole time this was happening, my only consolation was that I knew it wasn’t me. Even if everyone else didn’t know that, at least I did. However, something else was weighing on my mind at the time… I thought of everyone in the world who this actually happens to. Revenge porn is a real thing and I know people who have actually had their real nudes circulated online by an ex or a spiteful friend. To this day, I pray for those men and women. The human body was never made for this.
To all of the women and men who have been lied to and made to believe that sending nudes is a normal thing- I am sorry. To all of the women and men who have been exploited because of nudes they have sent- my heart breaks for you. To all of the people who are reading this and are tempted to judge those who ask for and those who send nudes- don’t. None of us are perfect but all of us can be better.
For anyone who might be feeling pressured to send nudes, I would just like to encourage you and tell you that it isn’t worth it. I promise you that anyone who’s love or attention might be hinging on the requirement that you show them something so personal and sacred as your naked body is not the kind of “love” or attention that you deserve. While that may sound arbitrary, believe me, I know. I have had pressure to do the same thing from people I’ve dated and people who weren’t even looking for a relationship with me. Looking back, I am so thankful that I didn’t give them what they were looking for.
If you’ve sent nudes before and you feel like you can’t turn back now- that’s a lie from Hell. We know from Saint Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians that “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor 5:17). It is never too late to start over when you have Christ. Start today. Let Him make you new. That isn’t you anymore.