*this post contains explicit content. what is shared within this post may be triggering to those who have been sexually harassed or assaulted, please read at your own discretion.
This story begins around 3 o’clock on April 26th when I met with my success coach to discuss where I needed to be academically in order to keep my scholarship for next year. But nothing in that two hour meeting could prepare me for what I would experience later that day.
So there I was…doing a take home exam for my graphic design class at 11:40pm. All at once, I received six text messages from six different people:
“Hey”… “Saw ur ad on cl”… “hey sweetheart”.
So I’m sitting here asking myself two things…where did they come from, and what the heck “cl” meant? (really, I had no clue). So I obviously asked who they were and what “cl” meant. All responded by telling me that they saw my ad on Craigslist. Mind you, that I have never used Craigslist a day in my life. As I’m trying to tell the first six responders that I’ve never used Craigslist before and asking them to send me the link to the ad, my phone is blowing up with dozens of new texts, nude pictures included.
The first thing I do is make a list in my head of all the guys that would’ve put me on Craigslist. Many of the men asked me if it was my ex who did it and/or who the hell I pissed off to get put on there. No matter what I did, I kept running into dead end after dead end trying to find out who was behind the ad. The situation worsened when I was notified of a second ad, this time including my snapchat.
At this point I was already copying and pasting the same response over and over to everyone. I had over 20 nude photos all from separate men (and one woman) that night. I was getting calls, voicemails, and snapchats during all of this. My roommates, who were with me the moment it started, couldn’t think of anyone who would’ve possibly done this. As we tried to figure out what to do, it was suggested that I contact a mutual friend who might be able to help. This girl was a friend of mine that possibly had the ability to get into the account and take down the ads. So I did just that, but the messages continued. There was a third ad.
Luckily, this was the last ad. Oddly enough, this one was placed in Detroit’s Craigslist, unlike the other two. This messed me up even more because at this point I didn’t know if it was someone I knew back home doing this or college. I was frustrated, tired, and very very worried about my take home exam that I had yet to touch since I got the first six messages. Many of the people who responded to the ads thought that I was lying, that I was posting them myself, and no matter what I said, they didn’t believe me.
At this point, I was no longer being nice-this had gone on far too long. As I stood my ground, they did too. Now after you see these next screenshots, keep in mind, I am now in fight mode. The amount of men messaging me increased to 150+. At that point, it is not easy to be self-controlled or to ignore them. Its not easy to ignore when you feel so disrespected by whoever made the ads. It is not easy when someone uses your name to make you out to be someone eager for sex.
I erased many of the messages at this point because my phone was freaking out (and I mean FREAKING out), these are only a small portion of what I was being sent (the police have a lot more of these conversations…more about that later on). This all went on until 3am when I went to bed.
…and they still messaged me throughout the night until I woke up at 6:30 for class.
…and throughout class until 9.
…and until 1pm when I woke up from a nap.
…THEN I had enough.
I spoke to the person I had asked to take down the ads the night before. She told me that the ads were removed. You would’ve thought that the messages would’ve stopped by now, but they didn’t. So a wonderful friend of mine came with me to the police department to file a report (bless u, dear friend). After talking to the police, the texts had finally stopped.
When the person I had asked to take down the ads was notified that I went to the police, they FREAKED OUT. Because I don’t know the ins and outs of the hacking world, I was led to believe that my friend’s IP address could now be used to incriminate her. I now had the thought that I just screwed over my friend. I thought that because of this I had ruined any chance of finding the person who did it. I asked for advice from both my Dad, a retired police officer, and my half brother, currently a police officer. After talking to them, I felt better knowing that one way or another, that the police could find who actually did this; that my friend would be safe.
…this is where everything went downhill.
I was asked to meet with my roommates for coffee. I was then told that they believed that the girl I had take down the ads was the same one who put me on Craigslist.
…not a guy I had expected and somewhat hoped it would be.
…a girl, who was also my friend.
I had full intentions of pressing charges when I believed it was a guy. I didn’t exactly prepare myself for it to be a girl, letalone someone I thought was my friend. At 1am while I was with a friend, I was told that she had confessed.
The next day, I contacted the police officer working on my case to let him know that I found out who it was. I told him I did not want to press charges against her. But at that point, they were already moving forward with legal action. I had barely touched my exam. I was way far behind studying than I should’ve been. I had an overabundant amount of stress about my exams and now whether or not I should be pressing charges and what that would mean for my friend.
I found out the reason for the ads was for “a good laugh”.
As for the reason for three ads…well…she didn’t think many people would reply so she made multiple. This didn’t satisfy me or make me feel any better about the whole incident.
At this point I had mixed feelings about pressing charges. It felt like everyone was suddenly sympathizing for her, feeling sorry for this “poor girl” that what she did would get this far…
They wanted me to let it go.
That night, I stormed off with my skateboard and didn’t contact anyone for hours. I left hoping that maybe that night my life would end, that someone would take me away and I wouldn’t have to make anyone worry about whether I was pressing charges or not. I allowed myself to soak in the pain of falling off my board because it was the closest thing I had to self-harming. I think it was that night alone that told me that I needed to go through with pressing charges. While everyone else wanted to forget about the whole thing, I still couldn’t stop thinking about it.
In my life I have allowed people to walk all over me and hurt me in the cruelest ways without stopping them. But now, to be robbed of what was yours and then being made to feel like you’re being told that it doesn’t compare to what the other person is now going through; that its not as bad as their pain? (i’m sorry for this)…that’s just shitty.
The day before finals, I met with a friend and his girlfriend to study. I was so frustrated that I was so far behind and I couldn’t do anything but cry. Mind you, in the middle of the library with students at every desk. It was somewhat embarrassing on my part, maybe for the girl too (i’m still sorry for that if you’re reading this). I had never had so much anxiety in my life than I did in that entire week. I truly believed after that session in the library that I was going to lose my scholarship. I met with the investigator the next day to ask about another option that didn’t require me to press charges but still gave me the justice I deserved. I was left with not many options but to either press charges or not.
For once in my life I had to use my voice.
I decided to press charges for the sake of my heart, my hurt, my dignity. I didn’t tell anyone but my Mom that I pressed charges until later on in the day, and that was the last time I slept in my dorm until Thursday night. I went to a friend’s place, I slept on the floor that night, getting only three hours of sleep the night before a really important exam (highest exam score I had out of all of my exams, though #boom).
The past four months I have struggled with the trauma of that night. I freeze up when older men stare at me for too long, call me sweetheart or dear, and depending what they looked like (many guys sent me selfies), I could see them behind the screen messaging me or sending me nude photos. Even now I still get very tense when those kind of things happen.
I felt like I did not matter.
For quite a while I blamed myself for whatever I did to deserve being put out there like that. I felt that I was unimportant and not worth fighting for; which resulted in suicidal thoughts and coping with self-harm.
I was angry.
I became more defensive of how people treated me. I lost a lot of my friends that I had last year, and felt very alone. I struggle to understand what about me this girl didn’t like…to put me out on the internet like that.
I was scared.
I was scared that my new roommates and friends will think I’m too emotional and not like me for the same reasons she did and either hurt me, leave me, or both. The weeks leading up to the sentencing, I didn’t sleep. I was scared that if I left out any detail about what I’ve experienced and how its affected me, that she would win and get less than I felt she deserved.
But I am healing.
God has shown me a lot about this entire experience. By going forth with pressing charges, I was using my voice in a way that would speak for myself, who I am, and what I deserve for the rest of my life. It was my declaration that I would no longer allow people to walk on me like that. To set boundaries. To learn to fight for justice for my own heart but with love and not vengeance.
Luke was an important chapter for me through this whole experience. From Luke 12:11 “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say”, to Luke 22 when Peter is told he will betray Jesus three times (note: my “friend” betrayed me three times-when she put me on craigslist, when she got involved as if she was innocent, and when she tried to play the victim, I the enemy), to when Jesus prayed at the Mount of Olives and says to God “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”, to when Jesus was on the Cross and said “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”. It’s helped me to center myself in the days leading up to the court date and how to feel and react when seeing her for the first time face-to-face since April.
Like the days prior to going to court, I had little sleep and was very scared for what could come out of that day. And all I can really say is that I cried…a lot. Its hard to stand in the court room against someone who you trusted, who you thought liked you, who still does not believe to an extent that she is to blame.
She got a lesser punishment than I had wanted for her, but that does not mean that I am hurt by that.
I have been asked if I feel like justice was served, if I am happy with the sentencing. And honestly, I cannot answer that. I feel lighter and more at ease than I have for awhile now, but I know that there’s still more to walk through. I know that I still have a lot of healing to do, but I know that this is all in God’s hands. I guess that I am at ease knowing that her sentencing is His will and she got what she was sentenced for a reason. I trust in His future for her, and I trust Him for mine. I’m happy for a new start that God has been setting up for me since the moment I left CMU. I’m grateful for the friends I still have and for the wonderful roommates I am blessed to get to live with this year, and I am thankful for what God has made out of me through this season.
I’m hopeful in His plans.