I wanted to crawl back under the covers and hide. I wanted to cry myself to sleep, but sleep had already eluded me for the last 7 hours I'd been laying in bed. I didn't know what I was going to do. I couldn't think. I panicked. This was the last thing I needed... yet again.
It was the kind of website I'd normally NEVER have an account on, but I couldn't contact anyone through this forum unless I had an account. As much as I did NOT want to sign up, I knew I had to if I was going to do anything about it. I scratched frantically at fresh hives. Stress wasn't good for hives. I was pretty sure complete panic was probably worse for them.
I started by posting on some of the forum 'rules' posts about my issue while being incredibly vague. I simply stated that some of my photos had been posted without permission. I felt dirty even saying they were 'my' photos, because they weren't. I didn't take them. I didn't want them. I wanted them to disappear forever; to not exist at all. But they were photos of me whether I liked it or not. I posted the same thing on several threads, pleading for help. Finally I clicked on an admin's name and found an email address I could write to. I wasn't sure where to start but I knew I needed to do it. I couldn't wait.
I took a deep breath. Panic settled in deeper instead of alleviating at all. How many people had seen this? How many people had saved those photos to their own computers? Oh my gosh... the fake last name they gave the character was so insanely close to my original last name that this had to be someone who personally knew me. It wasn't a name I gave out to people unless it was someone I trusted with my life. The details of what happened, the character names of the rapists... they were all accurate. This was someone who was actually there when it happened. This was one of my rapists telling the story of what he and his friends had done to me. Panic settled in deeper. My hands shook. My arms shook. My cats surrounded me on the bed, each staring at me in concern. They wouldn't leave my side. I didn't realize I'd been crying that hard until I went to push one of them off of my left arm so I could type and noticed all the water on his head and back. I'd been hysterical.
That was when my roommate knocked on my door to let me know the bathroom door was locked, he didn't know how that happened, and he needed in there to go to work. Everything I was going through had to be put on the back burner so that I could attempt to open the bathroom door. I struggled, but my hands were shaking and I couldn't think. I tried the old trick of using a hanger to push the button inside, but it was a different kind of lock and that wasn't going to work. I tried again and again, until eventually I burst into shaking, hulking, heaving sobs and banged my head on the bathroom door, completely defeated. Finally I went back to my room and closed the door. Some time after that he managed to get it unlocked, but I remained where I was, trying to figure out what I was going to say and do. I wanted and needed this down NOW. I needed to send the email.
A friend of mine reached out to me this morning to let me know that some of my photos were being used on a forum. I didn’t know what kind of forum or what kind of photos so I clicked on the link provided and found a whole New World I didn’t know about.
I am a survivor of human trafficking. Not only have I survived human trafficking, but I survived five months of daily torture and rape. The photos being used were taken without consent. I am not a celebrity, I am not a porn star, I am a real live breathing person. What’s more, even more disturbing, someone is pretending to be me and commenting on this thread that I enjoyed it?! I can assure you I did not. But as twisted as this whole thing is, the names of the other people are accurate from what my trauma-brain remembers. Of course I couldn’t read the whole thing. I vomited after a few paragraphs, remembering what I actually went through that day in particular. It’s something I’m not a fan of remembering.
I’ve already written three books about my struggle to survive what I’ve come through with human trafficking. This part of my life has not been covered yet but I do plan to write another book in the future. I’m hoping you can help me get rid of this and anything else that might show up from these people before that happens. This is sickening.As a survivor if human trafficking I do talk pretty regularly on radio and podcast interviews about my experiences in survival. Things like this are quite damning to someone like me when it comes to getting a real world job. It also causes people to think of me as more of a sexual fantasy and puts my life in danger. I become a target for sick individuals who want to live out the rape fantasies that they have with someone who’s already experienced it. I have no desire to continually be in physical danger from these people.
I’m hoping you can help me with this. I’m still very much in a panic over this, as I’m sure you can imagine. If you need proof of my identity based on the photos, I would be happy to provide that. I do have a website. I would suggest viewing it on a computer as I haven’t perfected the mobile site yet.
The character name in the story is Amanda [xxxxxx]. The name I go by is Amanda Blackwood. My maiden name was Amanda [xxxxxx]. Neither one are my legal name now since having escaped trafficking but clearly this shows some correlation in the story. It’s a little too close to home, obviously.
A gang rape that actually happened to me should never be someone else’s entertainment.
Moments later I noticed a message on that forum I'd just become a reluctant member of. A different admin was reaching out to me. I copied and pasted the email I'd just sent into a return message. Impatiently I continually refreshed the inbox, counting the seconds for a reply. None came. I finally willed myself to get out of bed and start getting ready for work. There was nothing more I could do but wait.
Hours went by before any sort of reply came. When it came, I had a new and terribly fresh wave of panic.
What had I done? Could the police or FBI have tracked this person down through the forum using an IP address? Since this was someone who had been involved in the crime, would it have been possible to prosecute against them? Now there would simply be no way to ever know. Would I have been willing to give the information to someone I didn't know so they could read the real life story of what happened to me and see the graphic photos? I wasn't sure. I second guessed myself, grabbed a tissue, and burst into silent sobs at my desk, hiding behind my over-sized computer monitor.
It's starting to sink in finally. The graphic details of my own experience with gang rape were published on a forum for the world to read at will. As much as it hurt, as deeply as that cut, it was only a single night of my life. It was only a few brutally long hours. It was one incident out of quite literally hundreds, if not thousands, of incidents similar in nature to what I had lived through.
I sat staring at my computer monitor reciting phrases to myself. It was only one. One incident. One day in my life. It was years ago. I'm stronger than that. I survived that day, and many others. It's only PTSD, Amanda. Shake it off. It's nothing. So what if it was a notorious motorcycle gang, and someone I thought I could trust? Move on. Help isn't coming. It was all the poison I'd been raised to believe.
"Get over it."
The truth is, help DID come. I stepped up. I got out. I escaped and survived. I did it on my own. But when this kind of stuff happens, it's okay to not be okay. It's also okay to fight back with everything I have. That's sort of become my trademark. I might be a wreck at the moment, and I might want to hide from the world for the next year but I'll survive. That night - the night the whole thing is about? In the moment, I wasn't sure I'd survive that night. In fact, part of me was convinced I wouldn't survive. I think at the time I would have preferred death. But I did survive and now I am who I am because of bastards like that.
Because no matter what they did to me, I'm still stronger than them.
I still win.