Dealing with shame of nudes leakage

Duduzile Mhlanga, counsellor

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DEALING with the embarrassment that comes with leaked nud_es is undoubtedly one of the most traumatic experiences that one can go through and it can affect a survivor’s mental well-being.

Some victims of revenge p0rn and se_x tapes that leaked, at times end up committing suicide after being subjected to online abuse or become the butt of online jokes as they are mercilessly ridiculed by cyber-bullies.

Last week, a headmistress at Kumalo Primary School in Bulawayo, Stella Mhlanga found herself in a traumatic nud_e photo scandal after she accidentally shared her private parts on her WhatsApp status, but quickly deleted it, but not before it was picked up by some of her contacts and shared extensively on social media. She later posted an apology.

“Good evening, sorry for what was posted on the status, someone had borrowed my phone. My sincere apologies people. It’s not my character and I don’t post such in my status. Please delete,” reads the apology attributed to her.

In her book, Hate Crimes in Cyberspace, Daniel Keats Citron writes about how victims are blamed for having poor online judgment, and some are accused of letting pictures leak merely for attention.

Hate Crimes in Cyberspace reveals the serious emotional, professional, and financial harms incurred by victims.

“Persistent online attacks disproportionately target women and frequently include detailed fantasies of rape as well as reputation-ruining lies and se_xually explicit photographs. And if dealing with a single attacker’s ‘revenge porn’ were not enough, harassing posts that make their way onto social media sites often feed on one another, turning lone instigators into cyber-mobs,” a chapter from the book reads in part.

Narrating her ordeal in an exclusive live interview on Centre Stage with Power FM Zimbabwe presenter Rumbidzayi Mugwira, popularly known as Chamvary, radio and television personality Tinopona Katsande said following the invasion of her privacy, she had suicidal thoughts and she had to go through a healing process in order to gain back her confidence.

“It was a really traumatising thing for me. It still affects me now. It’s your life, everything that happens in your life still affects you and I’m still dealing with it. Just imagine I was coming out of Sunday church service and I thought the world has shut me down and shut me out, suicide came through. I don’t want to lie to you, I wanted to kill myself,” said a teary Katsande, a former Studio 263 actress.

Katsande’s experience underscored a dilemma by society when confronting people suspected of recording and sharing se_xual images.

Counsellor Duduzile Mhlanga said staying positive was vital when one finds herself or himself in a nude photo scandal.

“You will feel like your world has come crashing down all around you but the very important thing to remember is not to stress yourself. It might seem a bit silly but try and say positive thoughts to yourself to undermine any negative thoughts. Remind yourself that where there is a challenging situation, there is always a solution.

“You should also talk about it with someone you trust, because it’s so much easier to get through something when you let others give you a hand. They will, however, be there to give you the best possible help, guidance and advice,” said Mhlanga.

Commenting on the psychological impact of nud_e photo leaks, mental health activist and founder of the African Institute for ending Violence, Bullying and Suicide (AFRIBS) Zimbabwe, Zezani Masuku, said victims commonly experience numerous mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, self-blame, substance abuse, and denial or avoidance.

“The impact, however, varies from person to person since mental health is like an elastic band. If stretched it can break at any point and some people are just like that as they can break by a small stretch.

“Some don’t break down until the rubber band has been over-stretched. The factors to consider that can impact on someone’s mental health are bullying that come in the form of taunting, deliberate humiliating behaviour imposed on the individual by other people, verbal insults, isolation or exclusion in activities by community members,” said Masuku.

She adds: “This can trigger an anxiety disorder which is excessive worry or clinical depression which is a chronic state of a depression that if left untreated can make someone suicidal.

“But like I indicated earlier our mental health is different- some people can have a very strong and determined outlook of not allowing such an incident to destroy them.

“The impact of such an incident can also affect family members and the same psychological effects can be triggered particularly in children.”

On why men request nud_e pictures Allister Ncube said men find nud_e photos from a loved one exciting to look at than strangers on the internet.

“The easiest way to arouse us is by showing us something appealing. Since we can’t physically be with you all the time, we find nud_es exciting to look at than strangers on the internet.

“It’s not a secret that as men we find a nak_ed body more exciting to look at. It makes us feel turned on. It’s alluring and gets us feeling so hot. The other reason why guys ask for pictures is for intimate purpose.

“It’s something we can visualise touching and it brings forth our memories of the things we have actually done with it.

“Sometimes just the fact that you are sending your nud_es as men makes us feel kind of in control,” said Ncube.

— BMetro

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