There are subjects we struggle to talk about. If politics and religion are thought of as thorny issues, talking about revenge porn, consent, sexual violence and victim-blaming means taking a deep breath and diving face-first into controversy.
This week, 20 New Zealanders, some well-known and others everyday Kiwis, did just that. At 7am on Wednesday morning, I posted a short video on Facebook. I sat for a moment, watching the views accumulate. Five views. Seven.
Half an hour later I checked in again; several hundred people had watched the video. By 9am, more than 5000, by 4pm, 60,000. By 7.30pm, 100,000. By 7.30 the next morning, that number had doubled.
The video was called #MyBodyMyTerms, and it stemmed from an idea I had one morning in the shower. Which is perhaps fitting, given the video features many naked bodies. I'd just heard about yet another case of revenge porn.
For the uninitiated, revenge porn is the sharing of private images and videos without consent. This particular case involved someone I knew, and I was furious.
The violations inherent in this cruel crime are numerous and compounding. First there's the betrayal, then humiliation, then the modern horror of online trolling as keyboard commentators pass judgment on everything from the victim's body, to their morals, to their upbringing. The words "slut" and "whore" are commonplace.
Standing in the shower, quietly fuming, I felt enough was enough. Thankfully, I wasn't alone.
I began reaching out to people, timidly at first, aware that the conversation I was hoping to provoke would be confronting and controversial. A group of us met in early July, including veteran television producer Jo Raj, who became a fearless driving force. In that moment, #MyBodyMyTerms was born.
What followed was a flurry of organising. We began to discuss the best people to deliver the message and quickly agreed it was vital for men and women to be included in the video. Our cast began to grow. South Pacific Pictures kindly gave us its studio free of charge. Photographer Emily Raftery and director of photography Yves Simard donated services.
We were up and running.
We were blown away when Teuila Blakely agreed to be come on board. Teuila's bravery in being a part of this campaign should not be underestimated. The most frequent question I hear during conversations about revenge porn is, "Well why would you make a naked video of yourself anyway?", which insinuates that the victim is somehow responsible, or idiotic, or perhaps even "asking for it". Teuila has dealt with all of these perceptions, and much worse. She is, of course, none of these things, and the dignity and integrity she brought to #MyBodyMyTerms were inspirational.
While #MyBodyMyTerms began as a campaign focusing on revenge porn, we realised it was only one part of a larger issue. Victim-blaming is most prevalent in cases of sexual violence, and we can't discuss sexual violence without considering consent.
In New Zealand, we have some of the worst sexual violence statistics in the OECD. Many see rape as something that happens in a dark alley, but approximately 90 per cent of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim/survivor.
As a young woman, this doesn't surprise me. While I've thankfully never been raped, I have experienced sexual harassment and abuse committed by people I have considered friends and colleagues. I have also had people suggest that my choice of clothing and friendly behaviour somehow contributed to what had happened to me.
Another well-meaning but bumbling and hurtful confidant suggested my decision to drink alcohol was to blame.
Ultimately, these kinds of comments are neither helpful nor correct. Nor are they particularly rare. The true statistics of sexual violence are likely much higher than those reported, and male victims particularly may face challenges in reporting sexual violence. Victim-blaming makes it much harder for survivors to come forward to seek justice and the support they need.
More than anything, we need to be having conversations about these beliefs, encouraging people to examine why they may hold certain opinions. We need to be explaining that the only person responsible for sexual violence is the perpetrator.
Consent is not the absence of a "no". Consent is a freely and consciously given, enthusiastic "yes".
At the time of writing this, the #MyBodyMyTerms video has had 268,261 views, 7728 likes and 5309 shares. It has been just over 48 hours. Our little video of big messages has been seen by more people than I ever imagined, and I feel humbled and grateful. If we can change even one mind, #MyBodyMyTerms will have been infinitely worth it.