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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CU Boulder chapter.

When I was 15 years old my best friend photographed me in the shower and, unbeknownst to me, shared the image with our entire school. 

I was the last person to find out. I do not know how long my naked body was being circulated through the internet nor who received this image, but this event was quite literally life-shattering. This is my story as a victim of sexual harassment.

I vividly recall the pounding of my moms frantic footsteps as she approached my bedroom one day after school: the empty echo of her fist on my wooden door – which I always kept open – and the wavering crack in her voice as she said my name like it was a question. 

If I take a deep breath and close my eyes, I can feel the damp coolness of my clammy hands, the distinct pounding of my heartbeat in my throat, and the dizziness as my thoughts slowed and I scoured my mind for something – anything –  to explain why she was so concerned. What on earth have I done? Like a child caught in the midst of cutting their siblings hair, dunking shoes in the toilet, or picking up the shards of a broken vase, I entered a state of fight or flight as I awaited my punishment. I thought I was in trouble. 

While I performed my daily routine unconcerned and unaware, an anonymous classmate informed the school counselor about an image of me in the shower – eyes looking directly at the camera and a silly smirk on my face – purveying the internet. The counselor immediately reached out to my parents and as I sat on my bedroom floor confused and defensive, my mother questioned me about this image. I insisted I had no clue what she was talking about; I was so concerned about the judgment from my parents if they thought I was the type of 15-year-old to take explicit pictures of myself that I didn’t have the chance to process what was actually happening to me. 

Someone I trusted enough to sit in the bathroom with me while I showered had snapped a nonconsensual picture of me in my most vulnerable state and shared it with my classmates. My best friend had sent my nudes to the whole school and then linked arms with me as we skipped down the hallway, giggled in class, and split our lunches with each other: knowing what she had done and not caring at all. 

As soon as my mom wrapped her arms around me and rocked me back and forth, whispering “oh baby, I’m so sorry” I realized she wasn’t interrogating me but instead informing me of my own sexual harassment. In this moment my perception of life was absolutely destroyed. In a matter of minutes I went from an innocent 15 year old to a shell shocked, hardened, broken, disoriented, bitter victim. 

In the same 24 hour period that I was informed of the viralness of my nudity, the person I wanted to lean on the most became the manifestation of all my greatest fears. The girl who took my picture lied to my face about spreading my nudes and to this day has neither apologized nor shown even an ounce of remorse. Overnight,I lost the person closest to me and her true colors as the insecure, vindictive, selfish, ignorant, she-devil who I know now were unveiled. 

Can you even imagine for a second the shame, confusion, anger, and guilt I experienced as I discovered my best friend was doubling as the worst form of bullying I have ever witnessed, let alone faced first hand? To ******: I f*cking despise you, your family, and anyone who has ever forgiven you for your creation and distribution of child pornography. 

Years later I am still trying to process my abuse. I dissociated so intensely in high school, entering a near comatose state of depression, that I only vaguely remember months of my life. Yet, I still have flashbacks to gasping for air, gripping the edges of my toilet until my knuckles and knees turned white, and screaming so loud and so hard that bile escapes my mouth: not even able to control myself when a concerned family member watches like a shadow from the doorway, way beyond their capacity to comfort me or understand my emotions. 

I was literally and metaphorically a bystander throughout my own trauma-response: I was unaware how, who, what, when, where, or why this was happening to me and it seemed like everyone around me, including my friends, family, teachers, and even other people’s parents knew more about this “photo incident” than I. My parents became my sole support system: I lost all my friends, stopped speaking in class or doing any schoolwork, and survived each day through an out-of-body numbness. My mind and body shut down so I could cope with my intense and chronic confusion, shock, rage, disgust, and more. I am still unpacking details of these events. 

Speaking about this event is impossible. I am in therapy and as I try to open up the wounds of my past I continue to surprise myself with how much bullying I actually faced in highschool. I am still so angry. I am still so hurt. As I write this down –  coping as well as I can because for the first time since highschool I am okay with sharing my story in written form – I find myself sobbing once again. When my friend chose to click send on an intimate picture of me – an image I don’t even recall her taking – she ignited a fire that has yet to cease its flames. I consider myself a kind, forgiving person, but I genuinely wish the absolute worst fate on this girl after what she so nonchalantly put me through. I hate her. I hate her. I HATE HER. 

Admitting I am a victim – of bullying, sexual harassment, and trauma – and seeking help is the first step in trying to recover from the severity of my pain. The “photo incident” no longer affects my daily functioning, but the fact that even thinking of how it felt to be 15 triggers a meltdown is a sign that I am not completely okay just yet. However, writing this – as hard as it is to verbalize my suffering – is cathartic. 

I have learned so much from my teenage mental torture: I refuse to treat anyone the way I was treated in highschool. I aim to support other women, listen when someone is upset, and practice open mindedness and patience. Being almost completely alone when I had no will to live was unbearable, but the fact that I have pushed through and am now more successful, kinder, and more genuine than my abuser was, is, or ever will be is comforting. I am a victim– that’s for sure– but the woman I have become despite my experiences is the same woman I would have become if my best friend didn’t take my picture of that fateful afternoon. 

You may have slowed me down in highschool, but I can guarantee no one will ever stop me from being the woman I pride myself on being today.

Content written by various anonymous CU Boulder writers