My name is Holly Jacobs. Back in 2009 my ex-boyfriend did the unthinkable after I broke up with him.
He started posting explicit pictures and a video of me all over the Internet along with my full name, email address, job title, and specific details of where I worked and how far along I was in my PhD program. For 3 years damage control was a full-time job. I hired a lawyer to send him a letter. I begged and pleaded with 3 different police stations to file charges against him. I went to the FBI, and I hired an Internet specialist to help me take down the material. Ultimately, those avenues were dead ends and I needed a new approach.
So I started a website.
Through EndRevengePorn.org I’m not only gathering signatures to petition to criminalize this sort of behavior (coined ‘revenge porn’), but I’m using it as a platform to help other victims and lead what some are calling a ‘cyber civil rights’ movement.
But starting a website wasn’t enough. I was operating the site as ‘Sarah’, a pseudonymous character. Though I was starting to get signatures from other victims, their friends, and their family members, the bulk of society was still continuing to blame the victims and call my campaign and website a “waste of time and energy”. They just weren’t getting it; they weren’t seeing how devastating something like this could be to every aspect of your life. More importantly, they weren’t seeing the posters as the malicious, sexual predators that they truly are.
At this point I was living three separate lives. In one life, I was Holl(i/y), an Industrial/Organizational Psychology PhD student who was too afraid to spell her first name or give out her new last name for fear of having to explain why she was forced to change it. In another, I was Holly Jacobs, a revenge porn victim on the run from her poster, desperately fighting to get her case picked up by lawyers and police. Finally, I was ‘Sarah’, the pseudonymous figure behind End Revenge Porn, trying to change the laws and help other victims. It was time to start merging the three identities into one. Keeping up with who I was to whom was too much to juggle on top of everything else.
After continuing to be shamed, silenced, stripped of monetary funds, and turned away, I realized that the ultimate solution to all of my problems was to do the opposite of what my ex expected me to do: expose my situation. It was risky, terrifying, and I had several people closest to me who were very vocal about their lack of support for this course of action. Despite all of these deterrents, I couldn’t imagine hiding for the rest of my life when the real one that should be shamed into captivity is the person who tried to destroy my life with the click of a mouse. Additionally, I had seen how accepting the public was of trail-blazing revenge porn victims like Hollie Toups and Marianna Taschinger. To this day, going public about my experience has been the best decision of my life.
Speaking up has not only helped other revenge porn victims realize that they are not alone, but it has helped me heal in so many ways. Telling my story over and over again has given me the chance to really process and come to terms with it. Tears no longer flood my eyes when I tell perfect strangers that some of my most intimate moments are up on the Internet for the entire world to see. My teeth no longer chatter when I tell family and friends that my name is now Holly Jacobs, because I was cyber stalked and harassed to such a degree that felt I had no other choice but to legally change my name. I no longer have three different identities; afraid that each time I play one character, people will find out about the other. Today, I am finally one person: Holly Jacobs, the survivor, the activist, the advocate, and the founder and executive director of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, whose first campaign is to end revenge porn and aid the victims of it.