Trigger warning: This post contains depictions of sexual violence.
Here's something I don't talk about very often; I'm a survivor of some pretty fucked up cyber sexual relations.
The story? I was 14 when I bought my first laptop with my own money. I was lonely, depressed, suffering from an eating disorder and was recovering from incest. I need a reason to wake up in the morning.
Older men on the Internet gave me that reason.
I fell into this trap and couldn't escape; I became obsessed. Having cyber sex with older men made me feel powerful, untouchable and fuckable at the same time. Hot, sexy, desired....worthy. It gave me a boost of self-esteem like nothing else ever had.
No, I never ran away to have a sleepover with any of them, but it didn't make any of it any better. It was incredibly painful, raw and real. I loved, I cried, I laughed.
My parents found out after about 6 months of this and I was in a sort-of relationship with a 20 year old who lived 2 states over. Yes, we'd exchanged nudes. Yes, we had cyber and phone sex. Yes, I really did love him.
They treated me like a prisoner; it was as if I was a rebel who needed to be tamed. Clearly there was something wrong with me and I was just acting out. Take away the computer, the men, the cell-phone and my privacy and problem solved, right?
Wrong. So wrong.
I fell deeply into depression; there were days where I would stare at the clock and just wait for sleep. My mom removed my door from my room. And I had to like everything was peachy-keen; nothing to see here, folks!
Yes, there was something wrong, but it wasn't with me, and my cyber sex was nothing more than a symptom of something bigger. It was my way of showing that I felt out of control and helpless.
And we never actually talked about it; it was this unspoken thing that clearly affected the relationship between my parents and I, but nothing was ever done to address it.
At the time, all I wanted to do was run away; I was counting down the days until I turned 18. I hated my parents and felt trapped in my houses (my parents divorced when was young).
Eventually, I grew up, learned from my past and found a way to pick up the pieces. I realized that I had been taken advantage of, manipulated and used....essentially, cyber-raped. Hundreds of times.
Which just to clarify is still rape.
How this has effected me is not something I can ever truly understand, given how much it's become a part of me. I know I internalized a lot of what these men said to me, what they did. It's damaged my sexuality perhaps permanently.
I recently received contact from one of these men and had a small breakdown. The reality of what I did, what they did, hit me like an avalanche. Most of all, I felt sad for that girl...the younger me. I wish she could see that she didn't need any of them to feel whole. She had it in her all along.
I just wish other people understood this.
I don't talk about this because honestly, I'm ashamed. I feel foolish and stupid every time I bring this subject up. I also know people will look at me differently and view me as a victim. They'll judge me, shame me (internally or externally) and think that I should have known better. In essence, they'll victim-blame me.
But I know that none of this is my fault. It's the consequence of some fucked up things that happened in my life and that I took to the Internet. I was finding hope in the only way I knew how to as a 14-year-old (and 15, 16, 17 and even 18-year-old).
And because I was treated as if I was wearing a scarlet letter, I internalized it all.
I know there are so many girls who've been through the same, or similar. I wish I could show them all their value. I wish I could tell them that they can make it through, that they're being deceived, that they can have so much more.
Because the fact is, this shouldn't be a secret at all; it should just be another part of my truth.
Hi, I'm Erin, and I used to have sex with older men on the Internet. Yes, it was taxing in everyway imaginable, but I survived.
And now I thrive.
Need help? In the U.S., visit the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline operated by RAINN. For more resources, visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center's website.