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The Manipulation of a Victim Through Photography


Nicholas Ray inspired my post yesterday about how I was able to find a moment to smile while living through my captivity in Scotland.  It's a dark, dark world.  I did wait to talk about his final two questions until today though.  They were about the ugliness of manipulations through the photos that traffickers take of their victims.  I'll remind you of his question...


"I have seen many pictures of trafficked individuals. Several pictures have them smiling and laughing. I had a classmate who, during a sociology class where we were discussing modern slavery and trafficking, mentioned that if their ordeal was so vexing, how indeed could they muster up a smile? I do realize, after going through your [Social Media accounts] and reading your posts that the little moments of reprieve bring forth such emotions. However, how does a victim in such situations muster up a smile or a laugh when his or her captor is taking pictures of them. What goes through one's mind ? Does the captor use these pictures to manipulate the victim and the authorities and how does one fight back against such manipulations?"


Some take photos. Some don't.  I can't speak for all experiences, but my own experience is that the photos were his trophies.  They were how he kept control of everyone and everything (specifically me, but also the random strangers who would come over to join in the abuse games), but they were also his source of deplorable, despicable future pleasure.

The first time he ever took photos of the things taking place, I remember him asking the male if he was okay with it.  From what I remember, that was the first and last time he ever asked permission to take photos, and never once did he ask for my consent.  It was a clear example of entitlement and ownership over me.   I belonged to him; why would he need permission for anything?  I'd had entirely too much to drink and vomited from the fifth dirty martini consumed at the hotel bar in less than 2 hours.  I needed to be numb.  I've never been a drinker.  I never wanted to be a drinker.  But I needed to get through it somehow, and I knew what I'd been told about 'drunken blackouts' caused by alcohol. so I picked my poison. 

I did not achieve the drunken blackout I'd been in search of, unfortunately.  I do remember vomiting in the bushes out front before going up to the room.  He never asked if I was okay while I hung my head over the cinder block wall.  He just asked if I was ready to go up yet.    The man we were there to see was in his hotel room when we went up. He'd walked past us while we were sitting in the bar before I lost my stomach.  I felt even more nauseous.  I didn't want to be there. I was already self-conscious from scars on my body from many years before.  I wasn't comfortable wearing a swimsuit in front of people I knew very well.  I certainly wasn't comfortable with being naked in front of strangers.  The entire experience was frightening.  I was clearly terrified.  He kept telling me over and over that if I wasn't happy in the end, it would never happen again.  I didn't want to be there in the first place, but if I went through with it 'just this once' I was assured it would never happen again.  I believed him.  He told me to do it 'just this once' to prove to him that I loved him.  He told me I'd be safe, and that nothing would happen to me.  He told me that he loved me.  All the while, *I* told me that I could trust him.

I'm sure you already know that it wasn't the only time it ever happened.  He lied, of course.  Over the next year, he captured quite literally thousands of images, all depicting my sexual abuse.

He kept the photos on a locked computer that didn't have access to the internet, so that his paranoia was mostly kept at bay about his employers finding any of them.  I didn't have the password to the computer so I couldn't delete them.  However, he loved showing them to me every chance he got.  He would get a little gleam in his eye when he picked out his favorites, and they were usually the most horrible, the most revealing, most grotesque photos he'd taken.  Those, he kept in a special image folder.

When I finally managed to escape and get back to California, I thought the nightmare was over.  I changed my phone number when I realized he no longer had any real control over me, and blocked him in every possible way I could think of from contacting me ever again.  That was when I learned the dangers of putting too much personal information on social media.

I arrived at work that fateful morning somewhere around 10am.  It had already been a difficult morning.  The roommate and I had been trying to arrange a ride for her to pick up her car from the shop, and of course I'd promised to help.  She was late waking up, so she was late getting ready, which set me late by about an hour.  Since my boss at the time was a long-time friend of mine I didn't think too much of it.  I would be working on receipts and reimbursements for him that day from his home, and I had a dedicated computer set up specifically for that purpose in the front room.  He'd work from his couch on his laptop.  It's the way things always were.  It's the way things had always been. That man rarely ever exited his couch except to forage for food or go to some rare activity outside of his domicile by the beach.  I guess he'd had a difficult morning that morning also. 

I walked in and there they were, full screen on a massive monitor.  There were a total of 32 photos displayed as thumbnails, but even as thumbnails I could see exactly what they were. One in particular even displayed *his* tattoo... the Monster of Scotland.  It was a clearly identifying tattoo, but his face didn't show in any of the photos of my abuse.  He was always careful to not keep those.  Thirty TWO photos of me in what I can only describe as a 'compromising' position, in ways the human brain can't begin to comprehend without being warped beyond easy repair.  There I was, in photographic evidence - at least to me - being raped by literally a dozen or more different people. There were different people in every single photo... the only consistency was me. 

They'd been emailed to my boss and friend from a rather suspicious email address that indicated an eye color and land of origin.  There was no name attached to the email address, but the text included said simply this... "I wouldn't want to marry this. Would you?"

I crumbled.  My boss and friend was, for MANY years, convinced that I had become a 'swinger' while living in Scotland and that ALL of the photos were with my permission.  Because how could they not be? How could someone take photos of me being raped by multiple people without my permission?  How could I end up naked with that many different people without it being my own choice?  Surely something like that wasn't possible.  I wanted to scream.  Instead, I nearly fainted, grabbed the back of his couch, and slid down to sit on the arm rest.  I don't remember much over the next several hours, but I do remember there forever being an unbreakable thickness in the air between him and I.  He didn't believe I didn't have a choice. I didn't believe he'd think that of me after so many years of knowing one another. 

My roommate I'd helped out earlier that morning was someone I thought I could turn to, so I did.  In the end, that truth built walls between us.  Unable to comprehend what had happened to me, she did much the same that my boss had done.  She had to come up with a coping mechanism in her brain to make sense of it all.  Instead of being treated as I had been, in her mind I had been a 'high priced call girl' and went so far as to indicate such on social media. 

I was taking Jiu Jitsu at the time.  I had grown incredibly close to my teacher.  He was a kind and patient man, and when I told him I was crying my eyes out hysterically in the passenger seat of someone else's car at a grassy park in Orange County.  I don't remember how I got there, or why I was sitting in the passenger seat of a stranger's car with my feet in the grass beside me, but I remember being hysterical.  I remember feeling this intense pain in my chest and throat that made it difficult to breathe or think.  I remember agonizing pain, knowing that the life I'd spent the last couple of months trying to build after my return from Scotland had just been ripped away from me. 

My roommate had been my only friend when I returned. She turned her back on me.  My boss whom I'd known for nearly a decade believed I had voluntarily submitted to sexual torture and abuse.  My landlord bought into it and personally asked me to 'not bring those types around' the apartment.  In one fatal move from over 5,000 miles away in another country, I nearly lost everything. I lost my job, my only friends I could confide in, and very nearly my home. 

I CAME BACK SWINGING.

In what took days upon days I sent an email to his superior officers in Scotland, outlining the abuse I suffered at the hands of the Monster.  I included a zip file of the original email my boss had received, which included the photos that even showed off his arm tattoo, though not his face.  I was in a long back-and-forth dialogue that summer between the Scotland internal investigations and myself.  In the end, I don't know what (if anything) happened to him,  but I still have the printed and mailed letter to me from them indicating that they saw "no signs of abuse" in the image, and claimed that all activities appeared 'consensual in the photos'.  I felt defeated.  He'd destroyed my life with a simple email... or so I thought. 

It took years to recover from that email, and every time I thought I'd seen the last of it, the photos would surface somewhere else.  Eventually they surfaced on several image sharing websites and pornography pages. Did you know more than 80% of pornography is made with victims of human trafficking? I didn't know that.  I guess the Monster of Scotland was using those photos to get paid somehow. Not that I was ever a celebrity, but I did have a minor following from when I was first modeling years ago.  He capitalized on that following and people apparently paid money to see more of the photos involving me being raped by total strangers. 

In 2017 I started talking about how I had been kidnapped and locked away by someone I didn't know when I was only 19 years old.  It was through my participating with several anti-trafficking groups here in the Denver area that I finally started to find my voice in order to talk about Scotland at all.  It's been a hard road to get to where I am, but I'm here now. I finally have an easier time talking about it.  I wrote the book about what happened when I was 19, but I have yet to write about the real story behind Scotland.  However, I've already decided that I'm finally going to try.  That book will be called "Second Ambition" and I hope to finish it within the next year. 

Sometimes I think what I'm doing is very dangerous.  I know he's still out there. I know his family is still out there. I know this probably makes them very angry and they would really love to have me permanently silenced.  But I also know that I have to keep trying.  If they get to me, they get to me.  But every single person I'm able to help between now and then is one more person who might be able to find their voice like I did.  If I can't make a difference, maybe they can. 

I have to try.  I won't let anyone manipulate me through photography ever again.  It's actually a big part of why I am a pose coach and mentor for others wanting to get into modeling.  NOBODY should ever be manipulated through photos.  I've had some of the worst of that, but there are many varying degrees of manipulation through photography.  I'm here to fight that every bit as much as I want to fight human trafficking.  I'll never be a victim again. 




Photo credit to Foto Man Ron, 2018


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