Hi. My name is Maria Amuchastegui. I am currently a graduate student at York University in Toronto, Canada. In previous lives, I have variously been an educator, an IT consultant, a computer programmer, a community activist, and a freelance writer. I am also, unfortunately, a victim of revenge porn.
What is revenge porn?
Revenge porn is defined as the distribution of sexual images without the consent of the person depicted, with the intent of damaging that person’s reputation. In many instances, the images were initially made with the knowledge of the person depicted, but later distributed without that person’s consent. In my case, however, the images were made without my knowledge, by someone who is a stalker and a voyeur.
How did you become a victim of revenge porn?
It all began when I was a graduate student at UC Berkeley in the mid-1990s. A female faculty member whose advances I had rejected began stalking me with the assistance of a private investigator. I obtained a restraining order against her; UC Berkeley, to protect itself against a lawsuit, provided her with a legal team and covered up what she had done. My stalker, like a miscreant Catholic priest reassigned to another parish, never taught at UC Berkeley again.
I moved back to my hometown of Toronto; my stalker followed me here. Here’s a photo of her that I took in 2015, when she followed me into a Toronto coffeeshop and began videorecording me with her phone:
How do you know that you’re a victim of revenge porn?
After I had returned to Toronto, numerous men began dropping hints that they had received sexual images of me. Most of the men seem to have assumed — incorrectly, of course — that the images had been sent by me. Some of the men seemed aghast at what I had seemingly done. Others seemed to believe that I had propositioned them, and looked forward to the pleasures that awaited them.
Based on these hints, and based on my stalker’s presence in Toronto, I surmised that my stalker was circulating images that she had previously obtained through illicit surveillance. Moreover, she seemed to be circulating the images in such a way as to make it appear that they had been sent by me.
That’s awful. Surely she was brought to justice?
Sadly, no. I reported my stalker to the Toronto Police, with disastrous results. The investigating police officer devised the “tunnel vision” theory that I was circulating sexual images of myself in order to appear straight and in order to catch a man. This theory is homophobic, as it presumes that it is better to be depicted in humiliating images than to have people know that I am a member of the LGBT community. This theory is also ludicrous. At the time that I reported this crime, I was active in the Liberal Party and in the Latin American community, and I had been considering running for political office. Moreover, for the past sixteen years, I have been in a common-law marriage with a woman. Nevertheless, long after I had found a mate, men continued to drop hints about sexual images that they believed to have been sent by me.
As a result of this ludicrous and homophobic “tunnel vision” theory, the Toronto Police have never treated me as the victim of a sexual crime. I believe that the police have known for decades of the existence and circulation of humiliating sexual images of me, but failed to inform me of this fact. Moreover, I believe that the police have been silencing witnesses, asking men who have received these images not to let me know about them. In short, the investigation was botched, and my stalker was able to continue her depredations with impunity.
Why was the investigation botched?
The investigation was botched for many reasons, including confirmation bias, homophobia, and incompetence. In 2016, to determine what had gone wrong, I filed a Freedom of Information request, but I never received a proper response. I believe that a proper response was suppressed, as it would have revealed police misconduct.
I have not ruled out the possibility of corruption. Ronan Farrow, the journalist whose work helped launch the #MeToo movement, has described the difficulty of bringing to justice abusers who, like Harvey Weinstein, use private investigators. Most private investigators are former police officers; the police may therefore be inclined to protect them.
Is there anything that I can do to help?
If you have received sexual images of me, please know that I did not send them. If you have received sexual images of me, and you would like to help me bring my stalker to justice, PLEASE LET ME KNOW.