My ex shared revenge porn of another woman

Nobody wants to think that someone they love is capable of doing something monstrous – but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. 

It’s been around two years since I found out my ex-boyfriend had covertly taken and shared revenge porn images of a female friend of his, and I had to grapple with my own feelings of responsibility and culpability. 

As someone who’s been raped and sexually assaulted myself, it was conflicting. Should I have seen my ex for who he was sooner? If I spoke out would it seem as if I was some jealous and bitter person doing so for revenge? If I didn’t, was I doing a disservice to anyone he might potentially do the same to in future?

These are all questions I’ve asked myself over and over, even more so since people on Twitter recently began telling their own stories of abuse.

Various accounts have popped up over the last few weeks, set up to anonymously share DMs naming people who have assaulted them and detailing what happened. Whether it’s lads in local bands shown to be harassing underage girls, or comedians who portray themselves as feminists despite raping numerous people, thousands have had a chance to swap similar experiences and warn others.

The MeToo movement swept various industries over the last few years, but the present moment is a watershed for those whose abusers aren’t billionaire movie producers or chart-topping artists. It’s a time for ‘regular’ people to speak out about the people who hurt them.

With that comes the fact that some of those outed will be our friends, family members, and perhaps even partners – and we have to look at the information we’re given without the prejudice of love and friendship.

You may want to ignore it and not even engage with the possibility that your loved one has done something wrong, but we have to put abuse victims’ needs above our wants.

We have to stand with the abused and not the abusers.

An article on an industry website alerted me that my ex had drunkenly had sex with the woman in question, taking naked photographs of her while she slept. He then shared them around at gigs (he was a comedian) and began telling people they were in a relationship – they were not.

I was gobsmacked. 

He hadn’t exactly been good to me, but I didn’t think he was capable of that. Despite my own experiences I believed tales about men who jump out of bushes; abject evil people that don’t have ‘normal’ lives outside of their wrongdoing.

In reality, many rapists or sexually violent individuals are indecipherable in ‘normal’ society. So although our own experience with someone can be perfectly nice with no red flags, we can’t rely on this to show who they are.

This time around, I had to look at the facts to work out how I would proceed. I messaged him to ask what was going on but he blocked me on WhatsApp, and I knew he had admitted to sharing intimate photographs of the woman in question to her and others.

In reality, many rapists or sexually violent individuals are indecipherable in ‘normal’ society.

That was enough to prove to me that he was an abuser. Later, I reached out to the victim so she knew she always had someone to talk to. She also had evidence that he’d done worse to other women, after they’d heard her account and come forward in support.

I didn’t push too hard to find out the specifics from her as the other allegations weren’t hers to tell. It did show a pattern, though.

Firstly I felt scared, wondering whether he’d done similar things to me or whether this behaviour had been going on while we were together. Then I had to reconcile whether I’d ignored things that could have helped someone. It was a sludgy mix of guilt and fear.

I cut him off, blocking his number to ensure there was no way he could contact me. Although we had spoken less in the months leading up to me finding this out, he had messaged me intermittently for support for substance abuse issues. While I did feel bad for him in some ways, I could no longer offer that support in good conscience.

Going forward, I will continue to alert people in his industry (sadly, comedy is rife with similar stories, and women need to be protected so they don’t work with people like this) if he appears to be back to the same old tricks.

One of the main arguments when it comes to outing abusers is the idea of ‘cancel culture’ and a witch hunt (of men, particularly) without a fair trial. 

Around six per cent of women have been raped in their adult life. That’s 1.1million women. 35 people were charged with false rape claims in the year 2011-2012 (the most recent data available). That equates to 0.00021281 per cent of the men in England and Wales.

Data itself can’t provide a full picture. For example, these figures don’t include those who have been sexually assaulted and not raped, don’t include men who have been assaulted or raped, and don’t include incidences where a false rape claim was not taken to trial. But they do illustrate how rare false rape claims are, and just how many have been through this. 

Then there’s the idea of ‘virtue signalling’ and ending any relationship you had with the accused just to prove what a good person you are. 

Granted, I don’t want people to think of me as sympathising with his despicable acts (although everything I’ve done to support his victims has been in private or anonymously). More so, though, it’s about whether I’d be able to sleep at night knowing I stood back because it was ‘nothing to do with me’.

If my friends had continued to be besties with my rapist – who was in our friendship group – once they knew what happened, it would have derailed my recovery entirely. I couldn’t feel comfortable living like that.

This man’s current girlfriend has decided to stand by him as she only had enough evidence to believe the revenge porn allegations, which she felt was not ‘strong’ enough a reason to leave him. His friends relentlessly harassed the victim to retract the accusation (she didn’t go to the police about it for fear she wouldn’t be taken seriously).

When these people are laying in bed at night thinking about how they reacted to the situation, I wonder if they feel ashamed.

I know what it’s like to want to rub out the things someone did and see them based on your experience alone, but that does not trump what survivors deserve from us.

There’s no easy solution when it comes to finding out someone you’re close to is an abuser. However, if you automatically side with a perpetrator just because you know them, you’re complicit.

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