Sitting on the overground this morning I came across a warning ad of cyber sexual harassment or in more commonly known terms, unsolicited dick pics. It reminded readers that it’s a crime and will not be tolerated. However, what one can do after receiving such an image (apart from involving the police) was left unsaid. 

It’s great to see our world slowly evolving and finally recognising such actions as crimes, but I wonder what I, as a nine year old child could have done back then? 

I was eight or nine years old, going into second or third grade, still attending primary school. I was chatting to my best friend on Skype on a weekend and I received a new chat message from an unknown ID. It was a high resolution zoomed in image of the person’s genitalia followed by a text “you make me so hard.”

I instantly closed the chat and blocked the account it came from, despite there being no way to unsee what I saw. I felt frozen, in shock, unable to speak or move. I felt ashamed, “dirty” and no longer “innocent.” I vowed to never speak of the event to anyone and kept it to myself. Surprisingly, it made myself believe it didn’t happen so early on or it wasn’t me that this had happened to. I was ashamed and scared to tell my parents, let alone speak up about it. 

Many years have passed since then, and many more explicit images received, even as a minor. The second was through skype again, when I was 12, only this time I texted the person back, saying “I am an underage girl and this is inappropriate.” The response that followed was “old enough in my country.” Again, I felt ashamed for even deciding to touch the keyboard and respond to such a vile act. 

The third time I was 14 years old and browsing on a Russian social platform called VK when receiving yet another new chat message with, again, an explicit photo. Only then, I was at a boarding school and was not petrified of the image itself, but scared that my roommates would see it and think I am looking up pictures of that sort. I did the same thing: erased the chat, blocked the account and went to sleep trying to forget this had ever happened. However, my mind didn’t. 


Now 23, I still cannot pin point why I had always been so afraid of men, and more specifically, their reproductive organs. It always sounded silly because all my friends were experimenting with boys, flirting and having fun. I, however, was always repulsed by the even thought of *it* and believed that this was because I was lesbian, bisexual… whatever. I can’t seem to place myself into either of those boxes.

I felt at peace with that thought, I assumed this was the reason. Not until today; seeing that ad made all my memories rush through my mind, bringing me back into the three sexual harassments that I had endured as a child and now it made sense. But I am not at peace with it; I am angry and furious that I was robbed of my innocence at such a young age with not help available to me. I couldn’t even tell my mom. I didn’t tell anyone. 

Years of therapy and not once did my therapist touch upon the peak of the iceberg of what came rushing down upon me today, triggered by a simple visual stimulant. Am I cured? Definitely not. But did it take me 10 minutes to gather my head into one piece again and realise this is very likely to be the reason of my mistrust and disgust of men’s intentions? A definite yes. 

*Disclaimer: some situations and characters have been altered due to my lack of memory of the situation.*