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Turning victims into survivors – meet the BADASS army

I grew up on the internet. Like any other kid from the mid-90s with way too much time on their hands, I had formative experiences on Myspace, a platform for a bunch of emo kids (we are not talking about that.), MSN, Facebook, Youtube – you name it. Everything I know is somehow connected to spending far too much time online, and often you will see my name under another article babbling away about the wonderful opportunities that the immediacy and hyper connectivity of Web 2.0 have granted us all.

The dark side of Web 2.0
Today I am reversing this trend to focus on one of the many dark sides of life online, where one’s dignity, individuality and privacy are put at stake. Stories of revenge porn are often depressing, built around a vague sense of victim blaming, and typically unsolved. Content jumps from one platform to the other with no culpability and no way to put a stop to the horror. With each episode of violation comes a cautionary tale about the dangers of exposing oneself to partners, the risk being publicly shamed and spread online like the worst of rumors – as if being sexual, however open and comfortable one might be, could only be a sin deserving the punishment of eternal public shame.

We should be doing more, and better. Rather than stop taking pictures of our butts and teasing each other for whatever reason, we should be shaming those who violate our privacy and think about ways to track and stop them. Luckily, a group of activists are hard at work to change the conversation surrounding revenge porn, turning it from a tale of shame to a crime to be prosecuted.

Meet the BADASS army.
This is a story about revenge porn victims taking agency back in their hands to put a stop to Internet based sexual violence. The BADASS Army is a non profit organization founded in 2017 with the aim of providing supports to victims of revenge porn, as well as actively campaigning to put a stop to this barbaric practice. The group has been doing so through lobbying, as well as educating folks about the legal and technical knowledge required to defend yourself from such attacks.

The project is the result of conversations among victims of image abuse. After years of trying to battle the resurfacing of private images on several platforms, Katelyn Bowden decided to join forces with other survivors with the help of some friends in IT. This technical knowledge was fundamental in launching the activity of the BADASS army.

Taking advantage of online platforms, the group is now capable to offer other survivors workshops on Internet safety, as well as the technical tools necessary to track the IP’s of the uploaders. The group is currently working in Ohio, lobbying for a bill that would ban revenge porn and offer safety and protection to victims.

Healing and helping
It’s not hard to fall into a state of Black Mirror-esque paranoia and wish to live a life away from any and all technologies. The internet is a dark, scary place where a culture of exploitation makes it easy to take advantage of and objectify others. But there is more than that, and there are opportunities to find solace, agency and power within the very same spaces of oppression. Comforting, supporting and advising each other, the people at BADASS claimed their strength and resiliency to change how the world sees revenge porn.

Enough about naked bodies and shame.

Cover: Jerry Kiesewetter  / Final editor: Kyle Hassing

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Claudia Arena
Sicily born and bred, Claudia is a seasoned expat in the Netherlands. After three years and a bunch of life crises in Maastricht, she’s now in Amsterdam causing trouble and studying Corporate Communication. Strongly opinionated about (almost) everything, she’s really (I mean, really) passionate about TV shows, good copywriting, feminism and pasta. Not necessarily in that order.

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