true crime

'My ex-husband stole my explicit photos. Police said it was my fault.'

The following discusses domestic abuse. 

By the time Jess* left her husband, Jack*, his verbal abuse had spiraled out of control. He’d been breaking and throwing things, and spending hours smoking marijuana in his garage, while she combined working from home with caring for their three children. 

In the beginning, he moved into the shed, only coming into the house for a shower or to use the bathroom. Eventually, he moved into his mother's house and started a new relationship. Or so Jess thought. 

"About this time he finally signed the legal binding agreement for me to buy him out of the property and he had 60 days before the house settled. This is when the obsessive behaviour began," shares Jess. 

In the beginning, he’d read her messages if she happened to leave her computer open, forcing her to change her computer settings to shut down her device after a short time, and require a pin every time it was reopened. 

Because he was in a new relationship, Jess decided to join a dating app, to try to get her own life back. 

Then things became scary. 

"The thought of me being with other guys, combined with the knowledge that he had to leave the family home and his marriage was truly over, seemed to set him off," says Jess. 

"He started turning up almost every day, completely unannounced."

Because their house hadn’t settled yet, he legally had the right to do it. 


"I asked him to give me notice so I could arrange to be elsewhere but he seemed to imagine I would be out with other men so deliberately made his visits as random as possible. 

"He started pulling his phone out and filming me all the time, as an intimidation tactic. In front of our three kids, every time he saw me, he’d say disgusting things like 'how many c***s have you sucked today?' or 'how many people on Tinder have you f***ed?''

"While this was happening. He was also sending me hundreds of abusive messages every week about what a slut I was. He also happened to mention the exact dollar amount I had in my business bank account, which made me think he had gotten into that somehow.

Tech Facilitated Abuse. 

Over time, Jess suspected her ex husband could be watching her through secret cameras.

"One time, I picked my son up early from school and received a text message from him asking why our son was home and not at school. He mentioned things I had said to family members or conversations I had with the kids.  

"I decided to completely change the home Wi-Fi password and reset the router so hopefully he couldn’t access any of our data."

She discovered all her data had gone, putting her business at risk. When Jack next came to the house, he promised to fix it, as long as Jess signed a document saying she’d give him 50 per cent custody of their children. 


"At this stage he'd been moved out for three months and only had one visit with two of the three kids. I started crying, my daughter started crying and then he said he would fix the data if I gave him a blowjob. He started going on about how if I would give blowjobs to random guys on the internet I shouldn’t mind giving him one to fix my network storage.”

He filmed Jess the entire time. 

"I went to the police for help. A low level Family Violence Order was placed on him which said he could continue to come to the house but just wasn’t allowed to 'harass, stalk or threaten me'."

He continued coming to the house, filming Jess and denigrating her in front of her children. One day, he made a specific comment about one of her dates. She had no idea how he knew, until she remembered a phone call she made while standing on her front porch. 

"Then it hit me. There was a doorbell camera on the front door. He had been using the doorbell camera to listen in on my phone conversations."

A new beginning, but a sinister turn.

Over time, Jess started seeing someone else. It was casual, but after years of put-downs, she was excited. 

"I had sent this friend an explicit picture or two, then deleted them from my phone. Jack said to me, in front of the kids, that a nude picture of me 'was going around the internet and everyone was talking about it'."

Jess assumed he was making things up, until a few days later when he sent her a text claiming his friend had also seen the photo—which he attached to the message. 


"I knew for sure that my new partner hadn’t uploaded it to the internet —somehow Jack had accessed it. I didn’t know how this was possible."

She called his bluff, telling him she’d need his statement for when she reported the situation to the police. It worked. Jack confessed, insisting he had accessed the photo but had not uploaded it anywhere.  

With no idea how he accessed it, Jess did go to the police, hoping Jack would at least be charged with breaching the FVO.

"But I was brushed off. I was told if I had taken the photo myself, then there was no crime committed as it hadn‘t actually been uploaded to the internet. I broke down and cried in the police station. 

"I wanted him to stop coming to the house as he was constantly accessing my private information, and was told in a very rude manner that when you buy a house with someone, you can’t stop them coming to the house just because your marriage ends. I was so upset, so violated, so helpless."

A few days before the house was due to settle, Jess went out for the day. What she discovered when she got home devastated her. 

Jack had turned up at the house, where he found Jess’ dad with their kids. "Holding my children’s tablets, he said to my dad that I was 'inviting random guys to the house all the time to have sex with while the kids were home'."

He then thrust the children’s tablets in front of Jess’ father’s face. He’d downloaded all the explicit photos to their devices. 


"My poor dad. I’ve literally never felt so mortified and so just utterly helpless. Jack must have uploaded them onto the tablet specifically with the goal of showing my dad to shame me."

After the house settled, Jack continued to turn up unannounced. Jess would call police, but Jack would always leave before they got there. 

The final straw. 

Jack continued to send abusive messages to Jess, up to 100 every day. Fed up, Jess purchased a chain and lock to secure the front gate and keep Jack off the property. But that didn’t deter him.

"Jack returned, and seeing the gate locked, drove his Landcruiser through the gate, knocking it off its hinges.  

"Finally, he was arrested, and the FVO was upgraded so he couldn’t come within 100m of me, or the house."

Everything settled down after this but

 Jess often asks herself: why did it take so long?

"I saw police four times. The first time, the police didn’t even look at my messages, but the police officer was nice and assured me Jack would have an FVO that would stop him coming to the house. 

"I was so devastated when the FVO he did get served was essentially meaningless as all it said was he couldn't 'threaten, harass or stalk me' or own firearms. It just empowered him even more to carry on.  


"The second time was when he had downloaded the explicit photos from my Google trash folder. I was sure this would be taken seriously but the police officers I spoke to were horrible to me. I was offered no compassion, no empathy, no understanding. No, 'sorry, I wish we could do more but we can't'."

The third and fourth times were different though. "The police officer I made the statement to was amazing, she literally typed up dozens of these abusive messages and expressed that the photo situation was definitely a crime and should have been taken more seriously."

While the situation has resolved, Jess continues to endure the emotional consequences of living with ongoing tech-based and in-person abuse, with little support from police. 

"It was truly very terrifying, and I have had a lot of therapy to deal with it."

If this has raised 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.

Mamamia is a charity partner of RizeUp Australia, a national organisation that helps women, children and families move on after the devastation of domestic and family violence. Their mission is to deliver life-changing and practical support to these families when they need it most. If you would like to support their mission you can donate here. 

Feature image: Getty. 

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