When I was younger, a sexting scandal completely ruined my high school experience. The first provocative photo I sent featured my incredibly, distinctive face (plain as day) and under-developed boobs to go along with it.
Because, in case you didn’t know, ID-able nudies are no big thang when you’re fourteen… I mean, it’s not like an unscathed reputation could be spoiled with a huge, scarlet letter A.
Or so I thought. And boy was I wrong.
The boy I was sexting with was an asshole, to say the absolute least. I had no idea that he would use this one photo to blackmail me for months on end. His ultimatum was that I needed to send him a sexually illicit video of myself in exchange for his keeping the photo private.
Well, being young and more than naïve and terrified at the idea of that photo circulating among my peers, I did the vulgar deed he requested.
As you probably suspected, he didn’t hold up his end of the bargain. After paying him, begging him, and presenting special “favors” for him, I really was hoping he would at least honor his word.
Nope. He was loyal for nine months until the day of my 15th birthday — that’s when he decided to send it to his entire contact list.
Within one day, I went from sitting with a table full of “friends” at lunch time to aimlessly wandering the halls, mortified and completely isolated. Within two days, my mom received the video on her phone too, and she wanted to (metaphorically) murder me. And within three days, my church’s email somehow found it lingering in their inbox (weird, right?).
It. Was. Horrible.
People wrote vulgar slander about me on the bathroom walls at school and teachers even mocked my situation with their own classes.
My grandparents’ house was vandalized with off-color jokes revolving around the entire situation, and I’m still unsure who the culprit was.
A pastor asked me (face-to-fucking-face when I was 14) if I had a fetish for sticking things up my vagina… and I’ll never think that’s okay. NEVER.
But I think the worst part of it all was when our school had a basketball game against their rival opponent. On that night, the rivals designated a section within the school bleachers to publicly mock my rather embarrassing acts “performed” (for lack of better words) in the video.
There was a rumor this might happen on social media, of course, so my Mom called everyone she knew trying to stop this foreseeable disaster for me.
But sadly, the rival school apparently valued ticket-selling over my mental health that night. I tried killing myself for the first time that night, taking sleeping pills with the thought of never waking up. I couldn’t imagine ever recovering from this level of shame and embarrassment.
When I did wake up (thankfully), I suffered panic attacks to the point of hyperventilation, which often led to me passing out. It was more than humiliating.
The cherry on top came when our small town’s prosecutor sent me a letter. Turned out, the court system was making an “example” of my already debilitating situation. And I faced a public indecency charge while he rested on a distribution of child pornography charge.
What I did was/is truly embarrassing. But what makes it even more terrible is just how preventable it all was.
Because, as it turned out, this boy’s mom knew the scandalous acts we were up to. Yep, that’s right. She knew we were sexting. She knew her son had intentions to send my video around. And yet she didn’t do a damn thing to put an end to it.
Because, in her own words, spoken aloud, “boys will be boys.”
But let’s be clear: it is people like her who are the problem. What I did wasn’t right. But it was innocent enough. I was a kid. He was a kid. It’s certainly not her fault that we made the choices we did, but kids make mistakes. And, after those mistakes come to light, kids need the adults in their lives to guide them through and help handle them appropriately.
That didn’t happen here.
So, learn from my mistakes, his mistakes, and the mistakes of the adults around us. For the love of God, monitor your kids’ freaking phones and social media accounts. Talk to them about the seriousness and the social, legal, mental, and emotional consequences of sending salacious texts and images. Keep open communication and trust, so that your kids will (hopefully) come to you before they are in hot water. Avoid another sexting scandal.