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Revenge porn survivor speaks out

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On Wednesday, Nov. 18, Gay, Lesbian, or Whatever (GLOW) brought YouTube stars Bria Kam and Chrissy Chambers to campus to speak about cyber exploitation, more popularly known as revenge porn. GLOW collaborated with St. Olaf Leaders Abolishing Slavery (SOLAS), the Women’s and Gender Studies Department and the Political Science department to host the event.

Kam and Chambers have a popular YouTube channel, called BriaAndChrissy, on which they post comedy videos, songs, self-help videos and vlogs about their experiences as a lesbian couple as well as videos about Chambers’ experience as a victim of revenge porn.

The event took place in the Sun Ballroom and began with an introduction from Kam.

“Revenge porn is defined as a form of sexual assault which involves the distribution of sexually explicit videos without the victim’s consent,” she said.

Following the introduction, they played a short documentary from The Guardian sharing Chambers’ story. The documentary explained that before Chambers had discovered her sexuality and begun identifying as a lesbian, she was dating a man in the United Kingdom. After she attempted to break up with him, he proposed a night of drinking and then raped her while she was unconscious, filmed it and put the video online.

“It’s like every single moment is etched into my memory for the rest of my life,” Chambers said.

The documentary went on to describe Chambers’ legal battle to get justice and develop legislation in the UK to hold accountable those that post and view revenge porn. After the documentary, Chambers gave an emotional firsthand account of her story as well as her and Kam’s current campaign to end revenge porn. Chambers said that although it is still difficult to talk about her experience, staying silent would be even worse for her and speaking out is a crucial part of her recovery process.

Kam and Chambers are currently working with a women’s rights lawyer to seek retribution for the wrongs done to Chambers as well as push policies that will protect women from the trauma of revenge porn and ensure that perpetrators are properly punished. Currently, only 26 states in the United States have laws forbidding revenge porn.

Kam and Chambers also spoke about ways to get involved with this particular issue on campus. They suggested including revenge porn in discussions of sexual assault, advocating for policies at St. Olaf or in local or state governments that seek to prevent revenge porn, spreading awareness and generally discouraging a culture of victim blaming. In the presentation, Chambers stated that a shocking six percent of the population will become victims of revenge porn, and of these people 90 percent will be women.

“This is a form of sexual assault. And the perpetrators need to be held to the highest degree,” Chambers said. “It’s a young crime that the world is just starting to learn about.”

Chambers gave a message of support to the survivors of revenge porn.

“I know you feel like you’re completely alone, but it’s not true, and there are many people who know exactly what you’re feeling right now,” she said. “You didn’t do anything to deserve this crime happening to you. Don’t let anyone silence your fight for justice.”

In response to the presentation, Co-Coordinator of GLOW Caitlin Whitely ’18 said “I think that [revenge porn] is a part of sexual assault that doesn’t really get mentioned a lot. Even if the picture or video is consensual at the moment, it’s not consensual to be put everywhere.”

Whitely was excited to see the duo on campus, as they are some of her favorite YouTubers in addition to speaking out against revenge porn. Whitely sees their message as one close to the heart of GLOW.

“When I was coming out to myself, it was good to see a healthy queer relationship,” she said. “I think having them here, showing their healthy lesbian relationship, is important because a lot of people that come to GLOW don’t have a strong support system or role models to look up to.”

More information and resources on revenge porn and Chambers’s story are available at endrevengeporn.org, and on their YouTube channel, BriaAndChrissy. Additionally, GLOW holds meetings every Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. in the Sun Ballroom.

jeddel1@stolaf.ed