My name is Holly Jacobs. Back in 2009 my ex-boyfriend did the unthinkable after I broke up with him.
He started posting explicit pictures and a video of me all over the Internet along with my full name, email address, job title, and specific details of where I worked and how far along I was in my PhD program. For 3 years damage control was a full-time job. I hired a lawyer to send him a letter. I begged and pleaded with 3 different police stations to file charges against him. I went to the FBI, and I hired an Internet specialist to help me take down the material. Ultimately, those avenues were dead ends and I needed a new approach.
So I started a website.
Through EndRevengePorn.org I’m not only gathering signatures to petition to criminalize this sort of behaviour (coined ‘revenge porn’), but I’m using it as a platform to help other victims and lead what some are calling a ‘cyber civil rights’ movement.
But starting a website wasn’t enough. I was operating the site as ‘Sarah’, a pseudonymous character. Though I was starting to get signatures from other victims, their friends, and their family members, the bulk of society was still continuing to blame the victims and call my campaign and website a “waste of time and energy”. They just weren’t getting it; they weren’t seeing how devastating something like this could be to every aspect of your life. More importantly, they weren’t seeing the posters as the malicious, sexual predators that they truly are.
At this point I was living three separate lives. In one life, I was Holl(i/y), an Industrial/Organizational Psychology PhD student who was too afraid to spell her first name or give out her new last name for fear of having to explain why she was forced to change it. In another, I was Holly Jacobs, a revenge porn victim on the run from her poster, desperately fighting to get her case picked up by lawyers and police. Finally, I was ‘Sarah’, the pseudonymous figure behind End Revenge Porn, trying to change the laws and help other victims. It was time to start merging the three identities into one. Keeping up with who I was to whom was too much to juggle on top of everything else.
After continuing to be shamed, silenced, stripped of monetary funds, and turned away, I realized that the ultimate solution to all of my problems was to do the opposite of what my ex expected me to do: expose my situation. It was risky, terrifying, and I had several people closest to me who were very vocal about their lack of support for this course of action. Despite all of these deterrents, I couldn’t imagine hiding for the rest of my life when the real one that should be shamed into captivity is the person who tried to destroy my life with the click of a mouse. Additionally, I had seen how accepting the public was of trail-blazing revenge porn victims like Hollie Toups and Marianna Taschinger. To this day, going public about my experience has been the best decision of my life.
Speaking up has not only helped other revenge porn victims realize that they are not alone, but it has helped me heal in so many ways. Telling my story over and over again has given me the chance to really process and come to terms with it. Tears no longer flood my eyes when I tell perfect strangers that some of my most intimate moments are up on the Internet for the entire world to see. My teeth no longer chatter when I tell family and friends that my name is now Holly Jacobs, because I was cyber stalked and harassed to such a degree that felt I had no other choice but to legally change my name. I no longer have three different identities; afraid that each time I play one character, people will find out about the other. Today, I am finally one person: Holly Jacobs, the survivor, the activist, the advocate, and the founder and executive director of an organization whose first campaign is to end revenge porn and aid the victims of it.
I was in an abusive relationship for 2.5 years with my first boyfriend. We made intimate videos and photographs during our relationship. We split up 8 years ago, and approximately once a year I’d get a lewd email from him. Some contained photos, and once I got an email from a stranger with nothing but a photograph of myself. I’ve ignored him since the photographs, and he’s stopped completely since he got engaged and married (I gathered this on the grapevine). It unsettled me because I’m trying to undo the damage he did to me mentally, and even though I’ve barely spoken to him in 8 years his abusive behaviour still affects me. I’m not Scottish, but I thought you might like to hear my story.
I met Ben on a dating website. Our first date went so well I instantly thought this could be something special. We had a fair bit in common and I felt like he understood me.
A couple of months into our relationship we had been out for a few drinks and was in high spirits, he suggested we made a little video, for our eyes only, which I remember him saying!
I had never done anything like this before, but I trusted him and thought it might be fun. We made the video, and then watched a film and went to bed. I never thought much about what would happen to it if we split up. I suppose most normal people would delete it!
As time went on he started criticizing me, but I was still pretty smitten. He used to come to my house and make remarks about how I did things. He was a little bit obsessive. I started to become irritated by him so eventually I ended it. I said we could be friends, but he was messaging me so much “as friends” I had to block him on facebook, he was wanting to come over and watch films, go out but I couldn’t cope with his neediness.
I carried on with my life, started university. I had almost forgotten about the video. 11 months later I received a message asking “is this you?” and a link to a video, the video had my name in it and where I lived.. I was hoping it was spam of some kind, but as soon as I pressed play I knew it was me! My heart sank, I nearly threw up! I was hysterical. I walked out my house and rang my best friend, hardly able to tell her what had happened. She advised me to go to the police so I walked there, I was so worried about my career and the video had been there 11 months?? How many people had seen it?
The police organised a meeting with them the following day, it was quite embarrassing explaining to them, they said there was not anything they could do other than ring Ben and advise him to get rid of the original video if he had it. Which he said he didn’t, he also said he had only put the video on for one month and these new entries where other people, almost like he didn’t think it was his fault! But it will always be his fault.
I had also messaged him numerous times asking him what the fuck was he playing at! He did not reply, and then when he did he was so off with me!
His words were ” I told the police I removed the video over a year ago. Someone else must have downloaded it and posted it on the other sites. They should all be gone now coz I did a search a couple nights ago”. Notice he had searched and apparently not found them! Well, how come I was sat at my computer looking at the video! I was so furious with him, I kept messaging him! Eventually he actually accused me of harassment! Can you believe it?
I have got to say the websites were brilliant and every single one took my video down and responded to my email fairly quickly. This gives women hope that they can take back some control. I also said in my email I was under age, I was desperate! To be honest I think they would have removed them anyway. I check the sites less, maybe 3 times a week, but in the beginning it was becoming an obsession 3 or 4 times a day. I felt worried if I couldn’t access a computer.
I still feel depressed, dirty and have self harmed a few times. I do feel I am doing much better and now I just want to be there for other victims, and raise awareness in the UK. I must add I would never let someone film me! Even someone I trusted.