Someone I was seeing for a year recorded me having sex without my consent. The sex was consensual, the recording wasn't. There were several images exchanged between the two of us when we were sexting. After a while, he brought up the idea of recording us having sex, however my answer to him was always no. I had no tangible reason for this response other than I didn't trust him with that kind of imagery of me at his disposal. He had brought up jokingly that we should "watch our video" in the past, and I had always laughed it off. One night I decided to play along and dared him to send it to me... And he actually did. He sent me two 10-15 second clips of the two of us on his couch doing things that I thought were being done in private. I pleaded with him for the next two days to understand how unacceptable it is to record someone having sex without their permission. His response was very clear; he wanted this to go away and for me to stop talking about it. He swore that he deleted the recording with us together, but I think he was just trying to shut me up. We agreed to meet so I could make sure the file wasn't on his computer or hard drive. Realizing that going through a random hard drive was no proof of anything, I decided to pick a fight with him about what happened and record the conversation in the process. Armed with his statements from the recording as well as the clips, I went to the precinct the next day after work. That's all the background facts you need to know.
(I am changing his name to Denis in the following paragraphs because he hasn't been convicted of anything yet.)
I learned a lot during those two days when I tried to reason with Denis. His arrogance and nonchalance during that 48 hours where I pleaded with him to understand how unacceptable it was to record me having sex without my consent was incredible. His lack of empathy was unbelievable almost. I wanted to give him a chance to explain. I had strong feelings for him and wanted a reason to forgive and move on. After two days of going back and forth, his responses continued to show that he was not even interested in trying to understand. Instead of listening to me and trying to comfort me while I was sobbing about how he violated me, Denis brushed me off and told me he was "Sorry I was mad". He asked me what the difference was when he already had pictures of me naked. He kept saying, "It's not a big deal". He even yelled at me to shut up, grow up, and get over it multiple times.
The most frustrating part was that he was treating this the same as when I was mad that he blew me off last minute for a date. His reaction and emotional exertion to both incidents was exactly the same. It seemed like to him, they were mistakes that both belonged on the mediocre scale. There were moments where he told me he didn't like seeing me cry, and there were moments when he promised to delete everything. But he never apologized. He clearly didn't get it.
I didn't want to go to the police and have to lay out my entire sex life to them. I also didn't want to talk about being intimate with someone who wasn't my boyfriend. I'm not ashamed of any of it, but I know that certain people would be judgmental of it. The idea of having the details of my sex life and all of the sexy photos and videos I had sent to Denis being on file for the NYPD to look at and pass around makes me uncomfortable, but at this point I had two choices: drop it an move on, or take action. I knew that doing nothing wasn't enough, so I escalated and threatened Denis, saying that I would file a legal complaint against him. Instead of believing me, he told me I was acting crazy. Denis told me that if I went to the police he would tell them the video never existed, or that I had told him to set up the camera when I was drunk, so I did’t remember that it was consensual.
Unfortunately, he was right. I had no proof. It was my word against his. But he was the bad guy, and he wasn’t supposed to win. He wasn’t allowed to brush this off and forget about it. I knew at this point it was time to start gathering proof to bring to the police. I had a few text messages that were borderline incriminating, but I wasn’t sure if it was enough. I knew I still had some leverage left with Denis, so I used it to get him to meet up with me one last time to search his computer and hard drive. However my real intention was to record our conversation with the Voice Memos phone ap, knowing that in New York only one party needs to consent for audio recordings. Denis is a naturally tight-lipped person with his feelings, so I knew I would have to pick a fight and rattle him to get him to incriminate himself. By this point, after two days of using terms like “violate” and “I did not consent to that”, his guard was down. I was able to get him to acknowledge that I did not know that there was recording being made of me that day, and I also got him to admit that it was me in the recording.
Within 24 hours I was at the 17th precinct, a few blocks from where I work. Word spread quickly what I was there for, however I immediately felt protected. I must have looked nervous, because there were several officers that told me they could pick Denis up that night if I felt unsafe. None of that was necessary, I had never felt that Denis was going to physically harm me, but it was still comforting to know that I had an entire precinct on my side. I immediately requested to speak with a woman, although I could have comfortably spoken about what had happened with any of the officers that were there that day. After the initial report was taken, they faxed it to the 1st precinct, where the crime had happened. I rode the subway down later that night and spoke with the detective, who also eased the discomfort of having to tell my story. I showed him the clips, listened to the audio with him, and he assured me that the arrest was a no-brainer and that it could be done within the next 48 hours. After being contacted by the detective about the impending arrest and charges, Denis surrendered at the 1st precinct a few days later.
For the record, I wasn’t some random girl he called at 3am - we had put time and effort into our sudo relationship. He told me he wasn't ready for a girlfriend right now, but if I waited a little longer and didn't date anyone else, he could see himself marrying me one day. (I still dated other people somewhat regularly and did my best not to wait for him.) We had spent time walking around Battery Park and TriBeCa, and spent hours sitting on his couch watching movies and smoking joints. We loved making fun of ourselves about how every time we tried to see a movie in the theater, we messed up the timing or location. We reminisced about how one time we mixed up a movie location, and showed up at the Brookfield Place theater, rather than the Times Square one. Instead of seeing a different movie, we decided to just sit in the lobby of the Conrad Hotel and get drunk off a water bottle full of whiskey and talk.
Because of this, I do believe that on some level Denis cared about me. Maybe he didn’t care enough about me to try to understand why I was upset about the non consensual recording. It is also possible that he doesn't know the true meaning of consent, and therefor will never understand why it was a violation of my body to record me having sex without my knowledge.
I have read articles where Stanford swimmer Brock Turner's rape victim had stated that she didn't believe that his apologies were sincere, or that they demonstrated any kind of understanding of the full extent of his crime. Okay... I know I didn't get raped. My experience has been nowhere near as traumatizing as hers, but I'm sure we can all draw the parallel here. I wonder the same thing about Brock Turner as I do about Denis. Like Denis, is Brock's lack of empathy due to his lack of a personal connection with his victim, or is it because he doesn't quite grasp the true meaning of consent? I can relate to the victims of the Daniel Drill-Mellum case, the man who plead guilty to raping two women in back to back weekends at the University of Minnesota, because like Denis, one of his victims also felt that she "had never seen any remorseful or apologetic behavior" from him. Are there simply some people that don't have the capability of understanding? Are there some people that will always try to brush it off? Will there always be people just never believe us when we say that exploiting or violating women's sexuality is such a pure act of disrespect that it shakes us to our bones and leaves us scarred forever? It's a depressing truth to have to think about, but the more I read about the victims of rape and rape culture, the more I begin to believe that it's true.
It also makes me think about Jennifer Lawrence and the articles I read about how horrible it was for her to have to tell her father that her nude photos had been leaked to the world, or how Vanessa Hudgens had to apologize to the public for hers being leaked, as if it was her fault. Guess what, world, women are allowed to do what they want with their own bodies. If women want to send pictures with their private parts showing to their lovers, they can. If women want to wear turtlenecks and long skirts every day, they can. It is a societal problem that people try to hack into phones to get a hold of private information, not ours. Stop making us apologize for it.
I think that many people don't realize that when you steal, share, or (in my case) create unauthorized, images of women's bodies without their permission, you are dehumanizing us. You are making us into a character whose soul purpose is to display our bodies for people to look at and to try to fuck, and at the same time shedding us of any other quality or personality trait. I feel like I am the first person to come up with this statement so bluntly, but in case you thought otherwise: women can have multi layered and complex personalities, even if they are promiscuous. You can be smart and sleep around. You can be talented and wear booty shorts. You can have uncanny people skills and be a calming voice to someone in pain, and still get drunk at bars on the weekend. For some reason, our culture loves to hate sexual women, and puts them into a confined slut box where no other aspect of their personality fits or matters. And yet, society puts pressure on us to show more skin and put out by the third date, while at the same time scolding us for showing too much cleavage at work and giving away the goods too early when we're trying to find a relationship. There is really no right way to act.
Denis taking advantage of the fact that I liked having sex with him makes me think that he never really learned what respecting women actually is. I think that he understands the theory of being respectful to females, but isn't sure how to manifest it into real life. I do believe that there are things that can be done to prevent Denis from recording another female without her consent. I have no way of proving this, but I personally don't believe that this is the only time he has recorded a girl having sex with him without her consent, given how quickly he would have had to set up his phone at the correct angle, possibly while I was in the bathroom or just not paying attention. Forcing him to write an apology to me of a certain word count would get him to at least process the information as well as my feelings of betrayal, rather than shutting me down like he did before. Being on the registered sex offender list for would also help, especially in NYC since he would have the humiliation of telling so many neighbors living in close quarters with him what he did. It would also certainly cramp his style in the dating world, but it would help girls to see him for who he truly is so they can make a decision about whether they want to run the risk of being recorded or not. From where I am standing, he is so clearly a sex offender that it doesn't make sense to not put him on that list.
The DA told me they can't get someone sentenced to an apology, and it is up to the judge whether Denis will have to register on the sex offender list. From what I have gathered, he will probably have to do community service, and will get the felony of unlawful surveillance pleaded down to a misdemeanor. I really don't want him to go to jail, I feel like his lack of empathy would get worse in there. It would also give him a personal fire to focus on rather than reflecting on what he did. Knowing Denis and the way he thinks, he probably believes that I went to the police with the clips and the audio out of spite, just to get him in trouble. I obviously want him to be punished, but it goes deeper than that. What I really wanted, and still honestly want the most, is for him to take responsibility and to understand why what he did is so wrong. Unfortunately, I don't think that's going to happen. His actions demonstrated that is too selfish, too uncaring, and too lacking in empathy about this to ever see the situation for what it truly is.
I wish I had a heartwarming message or some wise words to end with, but I have no conclusion to this story, other than that it is to be continued.