- My life spiralled out of control when my ex partner shared videos of us having sex online.
When I couldn’t press charges I launched the first civil revenge porn case in UK history – and won.
In 2009, I was 18 and dating a man I trusted and cared about very much. He was my first love, but I was naïve and young. I knew it wasn’t a healthy relationship so decided to end it. I eventually moved on with my life, and fell in love with my girlfriend Bria.
We started a YouTube channel in 2012 called BriaAndChrissy, where we make videos about LGBT equality, and use music and comedy to inspire young people to accept themselves. Over the past four years, we have worked hard and now have more than 280 million views and one million followers on our combined social media channels. We have tried to make a difference to people’s lives.
Everything changed in 2013. I saw the videos for the first time on Tuesday 11 June. The memory of discovering them is crystal clear and often replays in my head. The text sound went off on my phone. I had a message from a friend saying that someone was posting comments on our YouTube channel that I was a “slut” and a bad role model, and to look at the porn videos that I was in. They included a link, as well.
My heart stopped as I googled my name and the videos popped up. I pressed play and discovered that I had been filmed by my ex back in 2009 without knowing it. That night I’d suggested we take a break from the relationship, and he suggested a night of drinking. I don’t remember us having sex.
Aged 22, I had become a victim of revenge porn, and it was the most devastating moment of my life.
There were seven videos in total, none of which I consented to being filmed or uploaded online. I also did not consent for my life to be almost ruined, for every day to become a struggle. But this tends to be the new reality for revenge porn victims. Their lack of consent to the images being uploaded and shared is all too often ignored by the legal system and the perpetrators get away clean, not caring about the damage they inflict – damage that will last a lifetime.
In the weeks that followed my life spiralled downward very quickly. I became an alcoholic within six months, and I continue to struggle with PTSD. The emotional damage of this experience and the strain it has put on my relationship has been overwhelming. Sometimes I feel like I’ll never get better, but I know those negative thoughts are just temporary, so I do my best to acknowledge them and move on towards recovery the best that I can.
About a month after we found the videos and the Atlanta police denied our case, we contacted the law firm McAllister Olivarius. After hearing our story, senior partner Ann Olivarius agreed to take our case on. She has been a such a powerful force in our case, a hero in the wake of the devastation but also an inspiring role model for those who care about women’s rights, equality and justice.
It’s been over three years since we contacted her and began our long fight for justice. We went to the police in 2015 and tried to bring criminal revenge porn charges against the perpetrator. Unfortunately, the revenge porn law passed in the UK in April of 2015 does not apply retroactively, so the police could not help me. We didn’t give up hope though, and decided to pursue the first civil revenge porn case in UK history, against both my ex, and the sites that shared and hosted the videos.
Yesterday, we won. After the hearing I proposed to my girlfriend Bria on the steps of the High Court in London. She said yes.
I successfully sued my ex for harassment, breach of confidence, and misuse of private information. I am proud to say I am the first person to ever win a civil revenge porn case in the British courts.
Still, it was very hard to go public. But since we have a platform I felt a responsibility to waive my anonymity and share my story. It likely meant having the videos shared and downloaded more, and having to deal with more disgusting comments and harassment. But I try to stay strong and weather those storms because I know I am making a difference and this fight is so much bigger than myself. I don’t want others to go what I’ve been through.
My hope is that by facing this publicly, I have raised awareness and started a push for stronger laws to protect victims. Sites that share these images must be also held accountable for their actions, and change their policies on videos filmed and shared without consent. I hope my case will encourage other victims to come forward for help, too.
But victims won’t come forward if they know they won’t get help. Unfortunately, the United States has no federal law to fight this crime or protect victims. State laws should be enforced or amended to not require intent to harm and also should criminalise threats to share revenge porn.
Whether you are an angry ex, a coworker, friend, or complete stranger, sharing an explicit image or video of someone without their consent is proof of intent to harm enough.
I am grateful for those trying to understand revenge porn and pushing for laws to be passed criminalising it. Without your support, we cannot move forward in protecting victims and getting them justice.
Ruining someone’s life should never be a minimal offence. Something has to change.
Chrissy Chambers is a YouTuber who vlogs with her fiancee Bria Michelle Kam