real life

"I was naked, in the shelter of my bedroom and someone had just taken a photo of me."

It took me a few moments to realise what I was looking at. It was a warm Sunday night, I had had a shower and returned to my bedroom, dried off and jumped on my bed – comfortably naked in the shelter of my bedroom. The curtains were closed except over a small window, clearly above head-height which faced onto the street.

Something caught my eye and as I stared, I realised I was looking at the symbol of an apple iPhone in my window. The streetlight was reflecting off of it and I stared at it in confusion. It took a few moments for me to understand what was happening and then a flash went off. I’ve tried persuading myself since that it was something else, but I know what I saw. A camera flashes in a really specific way – a small burst, a pause and then an actual flash.

I was naked, at home, in the shelter of my bedroom and someone had just taken a photo of me.

I screamed and covered myself with a blanket. I couldn’t quite comprehend what had just happened nor did I want to. The entire episode from start to finish took less than 30 seconds but it was enough time to make me feel completely violated in my own home.

The irony is – I had just finished watching YOU on Netflix. I’ve heard criticism that the show romanticises stalking and I’m not claiming that this is what happened to me, but I can now attest to what it feels like to be watched without your consent.

Now, I’m struggling to sleep through the night so I’ve been staying in a housemate’s room because I don’t feel safe in mine. My breath catches when I look at that window and I’ve wasted hours wondering: who was it, why did they do it, what are they planning to do with that photo, how long will this hang over me. But more than that, how did they do it? Did they have ill-intentions and incredible timing that I happened to be naked when they took a photo or is this something much more nefarious.

I’m writing this now because this morning, I called the police whilst walking to work. I had delayed calling for two days because I knew there was nothing they could do and I didn’t want to re-live it. There’s no security cameras around my house, I didn’t see who it was nor do I have the faintest idea. This was not a physical attack and the police have a mountain of other problems. I don’t blame the officer for telling me that while they’ll pass it onto the detective unit, they doubt they will be able to do anything. But I absolutely hated hearing. To say that this upset me is an understatement.

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I got to the office feeling a lump in my throat. I sat at my computer, opened my emails, put headphones on and tried listening to something calming- I needed to breathe. I didn’t last ten minutes before I could feel myself on the verge of bursting into tears so quickly ran to the bathroom. I don’t know how long I hid there but I wasn’t ready for my workmates to see teary eyes and a puffy face and to ask the inevitable questions.

While I sat on the toilet, the only thing I could think is how unfair this is. I didn’t do anything wrong and yet some anonymous asshole had made me feel like this: completely violated, utterly vulnerable and afraid. This is not a particularly newsworthy event, but it’s left me wondering how many women are forced to feel like this every day whilst simply trying to live our lives. I’m tired of my guard and I’m tired of my fear.

After a shower, I get changed in my bathroom now. When I’m walking to work, I stare at anyone who stares at me too long- wondering who it was who has a photo of me on their phone and what they’re doing with it now. Did they gloat to their friends? Or was it a secret- because deep down, you knew it was wrong too?

For a few days, I wondered what I could’ve done differently but here’s the thing: I didn’t do anything wrong. I was in my house, I was not visible without considerable effort, I should never have experienced what I did. Women are the victims of men’s violence and I’m tired of being told that we are the ones who have to change.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

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