I loved him. I supported him. I let him into my space. I let him into me.
He violated me, repeatedly. He taunted me using my naked body and displayed all of me to everyone on the internet. My name is Charlotte Gumbi, and I am a revenge porn survivor.
We dated but a few months, and as any woman will tell you: there is nothing more painful than a man trying to control you and using your own body to violate you. I trusted him; I wanted to be with him but the moment he didn’t get his way, he lashed out. This is a pattern.
My body is not a tool for revenge. Men don’t get their way, and then lash out in order to ruin a woman’s reputation. These men use moments of privacy to get their revenge on women. Our society as a whole, has taught them that a woman’s body is an instrument to control: to use and to throw away when they are done with her. In the moment he wants to harm her more, he is willing to violate any form of privacy she has created with him.
It took everything in me to not lash out, I was violated but I had two options: To do something as vile in return, or use my story to uplift and support other young girls and women who are survivors of revenge porn and violation by different men throughout their life time. In that, I started a foundation - Humanity Must Rise®, an organization that focuses on helping young women who experience the same thing as me, and how to cope after an encounter with revenge porn or blatant violation. I want to educate young girls and guide them into protecting themselves before they too, end up in a similar situation.
This revenge porn incident wasn’t the first time a man had chosen to violate me. When I was 7 years old, a man we called “Uncle”; came to my house when my parents weren’t at home and raped me. I didn’t really understand what happened then, but my whole life changed that day. I started dressing in a manner that was perceived to be “like a boy”, because I believed that maybe if men thought I was a boy, then this wouldn’t happen ever again. I didn’t tell my parents, I just felt really dirty like something had been taken away from me and I didn’t know how to give my parent the burden of their little girl being violated by someone they knew, someone that they had allowed into their home, because I knew it would hurt them too. So I kept it to myself. I silenced myself because I was fearful of what could potentially happen if I did say something.
Then, it happened again. Power being used by yet another man to harm me and control being used as a method to humiliate me. When I reached high school, I was raped again by a boy from my class. When my ex tried to strip me of the dignity I had worked so hard to gain back by using my nudes against me, I realized a pattern. Sharing my nudes was one thing, but when he added on the torture of revealing my secret scars to the world, body shaming me, I cried for days and began starving myself. On the 3rd day, I decided either I sink deeper into this depressive state, and self-pity or Humanity Must Rise.
Humanity Must Rise® because my life is the story of so many voiceless victims whose depression and anxiety turn into suicide.I have had to learn how to protect myself and in the process, learned about South African laws and how they are implemented in order to help women. I have since been able to completely remove him from my life but it wasn’t an easy process.
But here I am, able to tell my story and the story of many survivors like myself. I hope that one day I make such an impact on the world that people when people say my name, they remember that I lived my purpose because it was stronger, deeper and more powerful than my pain.
I’ll continue to share my story, with people even when they don’t want to listen, for those who do want to follow my journey, you can follow me on twitter and instagram. If you would also like to help me continue my work, reaching out to high schools and middle schools with the Humanity Must Rise® message, by donating here: Go Fund Me or Paypal.
“A spirit that’s been left battered and bruised but still able to rise. The world’s not such a bad place, it just needs a little healing” - Charlotte Gumbi
I hope that when you speak of my story you will always remember this.