Zara McDermott says she contemplated suicide aged 14 during revenge porn ordeal


Zara McDermott has told how revenge porn made her consider suicide after a boy shared naked pictures of her around their school when she was just 14.

The Love Island star, 24, revealed she felt ‘shunned, punished and shamed’ by her teachers and peers, while the boy who sent the image got off ‘scot free’.

Zara, who was later victim to the same offence in 2018, said the shame drove her to consider suicide so she wouldn’t have to go back to school.

The TV star said she was called into the headteacher’s office and suspended, before police were called to give her a talk about having created child pornography.

Brave: Zara McDermott has told how revenge porn made her consider suicide after a boy shared naked pictures of her around their school when she was just 14 (pictured in January)

In an interview with the Times, Zara said: ‘People don’t realise when something like this happens, it affects the whole family.

‘My teachers just washed their hands of me. Drilling it into me, constantly blaming me. Do you know what that does to a young girl?’

She said the boy got off without punishment, while she was left so embarrassed she considered suicide as a means of not returning.

Zara, who is now in a relationship with Made In Chelsea star Sam Thompson, said she remembers thinking: “How would I do it?”. I never want to go to that place again.’

The reality personality discussed her experience with revenge porn ahead of her upcoming BBC3 documentary about the subject.

During the interview, Zara revealed how she took the nude photograph to send to a boy as a means of fitting in at school.

Candid: The Love Island star, 24, revealed she felt 'shunned, punished and shamed' by her teachers and peers while the boy who sent the image got off 'scot free' (pictured outside Parliament Square in London)

Candid: The Love Island star, 24, revealed she felt ‘shunned, punished and shamed’ by her teachers and peers while the boy who sent the image got off ‘scot free’ (pictured outside Parliament Square in London)

The boy shared the image with friends and it circulated around the the Coopers’ Company and Coborn School in Upminster, Essex, before reaching neighbouring schools by lunchtime the following day.

It even reached her 11-year-old brother and her mother, who worked in the food and tech department of the school, and had to confront colleagues and other parents who told her she should ‘be ashamed’. 

Meanwhile, she revealed the other girls at school slut-shamed her and she became isolated from her entire friendship group.

Coopers’ Company and Coborn School said it now has ‘specific policies for peer on peer abuse and clear procedures for sexting incidents’.

After rebuilding her life, Zara sexted again in 2018 just before appearing on Love Island to her then-boyfriend.

Difficult times: Zara, who was later victim to the same crime in 2018, said the shame drove her to consider suicide so she wouldn't have to go back to school (pictured on Love Island in 2018)

Difficult times: Zara, who was later victim to the same crime in 2018, said the shame drove her to consider suicide so she wouldn’t have to go back to school (pictured on Love Island in 2018)

She had reached a point of trust with the man but this was broken when the images were shared online and circulated around the world after the show.

Zara only learnt about the images when she was preparing to fly home after her time on the show ended.

It comes as campaigners including Zara, welcomed moves to make it a criminal offence for people to threaten to share naked, sexual or explicit pictures of videos of another person without their consent.

What is revenge porn?

Revenge Porn – or Image-based sexual abuse – is the sharing of private, sexual materials of another person without their consent 

Sharing with the purpose of causing embarrassment or distress to the individual pictured  

The offence can be both on and offline and applies to electronically shared images or showing someone a physical image

 

Government ministers are expected to back the change and make ‘an intent to share intimate images’ an offence under new abuse legislation, according to The Sun.

experience last September, she said: ‘I’ve been a victim of revenge porn, or what is called Image Based Sexual Abuse, twice in my life.

‘Notably, when I came out of Love Island, and came out to images of me, what felt like, circulating around the whole world. It was one of the hardest things I went through in my whole life.

‘I think that telling someone to never send an image of themselves or a video or do anything in a relationship in a digital way.

‘It’s quite naive to ask someone to do because we live in a hugely digital age right now, it’s only going to get more prolific in society.

‘So I think that trying to do it safely is a really interesting concept to think about and something I thought about a lot, how can you educate people safely?

‘And also and educating people who would share the images about the implications of their actions and them knowing it’s illegal and is an offence, I think could change a lot.’ 

Heartbreaking: Zara, who is now in a relationship with Made In Chelsea star Sam Thompson (pictured), said she remembers thinking: "How would I do it?". I never want to go to that place again'

Heartbreaking: Zara, who is now in a relationship with Made In Chelsea star Sam Thompson (pictured), said she remembers thinking: “How would I do it?”. I never want to go to that place again’

It is understood that ministers broadly support plans to criminalise those who threaten to leak sex tapes or other explicit content of their partners.

It comes after a campaign by the domestic abuse charity Refuge, endorsed by a host of celebrities including Zara and Oscar-winning actress Olivia Colman.

The measure would essentially add a ‘threats to’ element to existing revenge porn legislation, which carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison for those who commit image-based sexual abuse by sharing explicit pictures or video without the subject’s consent, with the intent to cause distress.

Lisa King, Refuge director of communications and external relations, said: ‘Refuge is beyond delighted to hear that the Government has committed, as part of the Domestic Abuse Bill, we hope, to make threats to share intimate images illegal.

‘We have been working around the clock, over many months to bring this to the Government’s attention.

‘The success of The Naked Threat campaign has only been possible thanks to the survivors with whom we work, our dedicated tech abuse team, the many supportive politicians such as Baroness Nicky Morgan, Caroline Nokes, and Lord Ken Macdonald and supporters such as Olivia Colman and Zara McDermott.’

She added: ‘This commitment shows that the Government is willing to listen to their needs and experiences and put them front and centre of their efforts to tackle domestic abuse.’

A survey commissioned by Refuge previously found that one in 14 adults in England and Wales had experienced threats to share intimate images or videos.

Standing together: In September, Zara joined Refuge ambassador and domestic abuse survivor Natasha Saunders and Refuge policy manager Cordelia Tucker O'Sullivan outside Parliament to lobby to change laws

Standing together: In September, Zara joined Refuge ambassador and domestic abuse survivor Natasha Saunders and Refuge policy manager Cordelia Tucker O’Sullivan outside Parliament to lobby to change laws

The survey suggested that threats to share intimate images are most prevalent among people aged 18-34, with one in seven young women experiencing such threats.

During a debate in the House of Lords on Monday night, Baroness Morgan pressed the case for a change in the law.

She said: ‘The actual sharing of the images might take place, but, just as likely, if a partner or ex-partner wants to exercise control over and play havoc with their victim’s life, they will leave the threat hanging out there, often for many years.

‘So the police and everyone else need to know and be clear in their own minds that the making of threats is an offence and should be prosecuted, in the same way as the actual sharing of intimate images was made a crime by this Government.’

Refuge survivor was a teenager when her boyfriend asked her to pose for photographs 

Natasha Saunders, 31, revealed she was with her ex-husband for six months when he ‘ordered’ her to remove her clothes to ‘pose for intimate photos’.

The Refuge survivor said: ‘In the beginning, I thought taking these photos was an act of intimacy, but they were actually being used as another form of domestic abuse – and as another way to control me.’

She said he would ‘berate’ and ‘mock’ her appearance until she gave in. 

‘Posing for these photos made me feel so dirty and worthless, but I was just a teenager and I wanted to make him happy. 

‘I never imagined these pictures would become leverage for my abuser’s campaign of isolation and coercive control. 

‘The threat of those intimate photos being shared was my worst nightmare – I had no choice but to comply with his continued abuse or face potential shame and humiliation.’ 

She said creating the law, in an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill, ‘would protect millions of women and victims of domestic abuse sooner than some indefinite date in the future’.

The matter is due back before MPs in the coming weeks.

Zara joined Refuge ambassador and domestic abuse survivor Natasha Saunders and Refuge policy manager Cordelia Tucker O’Sullivan outside Parliament in September last year. 

Speaking about the project on Instagram, she said: ‘I’m going to speak to you guys about a very serious topic, something that’s really, really close to me and something I’ve been a victim of myself and that is revenge porn, or as other people like to call it image based sexual abuse… 

‘Some of the messages I’ve had have shocked me to the core. I can’t even begin to tell you what women are going through now.’

In March, it was revealed that Zara give an ’emotional and raw’ account of her experience of revenge porn in a BBC documentary, to be released on February 23 this year. 

She revealed she will open up about the traumatic time in an upcoming show for BBC Three – recounting the time she left Love Island in 2018 and learnt that an ex had leaked naked images of her online.

Zara wrote on Instagram: ‘ANNOUNCEMENT. Hi Everyone. Some of you may be aware that I have been a victim of Image Based Sexual Abuse, which is also known as Revenge Porn…

‘For those of you who don’t know what this is, it’s basically when one person shares intimate images of videos of another person without their consent…

‘I am really humbled and honoured to announce that the BBC and I are currently making a documentary to share my story. 

‘My main aim is to bring awareness to this issue, and be a voice for those who have suffered in silence and to help make a change. I am sharing my story and being my most vulnerable, emotional and raw [sic].’

According to Zara, she now feels ‘confident enough to properly speak out’ about her personal experiences of revenge porn.

She wrote: ‘This has affected my life and me as a person tremendously, and for the first time I’m confident enough to properly speak out and share my story.

‘I am nervous to share these intimate details with the world but I hope that it will only make positive change and lessen the blame on us victims. The documentary will be out in a few months time on BBC Three. Thank you so much.’

Of the upcoming show, Fiona Campbell, the Controller at BBC Three, said: ‘We’re grateful to Zara for sharing her story with us and hope it will make a difference to young lives around the UK.’

For help and support or more information, you can call Refuge’s Freephone 24hr National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247 for free, confidential specialist support or visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk. 

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