My Journey to Activism

I’m just a bill. Yes, I’m only a bill. And I’m sittin’ here on Capital Hill…

I never paid attention to local politics—or national politics for that matter. I knew the basics: The president, which countries we were mad at, which were mad at us, the price of gas, and when to file my taxes. It was enough. I was content. Then an ex-boyfriend posted nude pictures of me on the Internet without my consent. Certain he had committed a crime, I went straight to the police.

But the law enforcement officials I turned to for help only smirked, shrugged their shoulders, and sent me on my way. Except for one State Trooper who sadly explained the ways in which the Maryland laws prevented him from doing his job, and thus prevented him from helping me. “Then, I’ll change the laws.” I said. “Annmarie,” He replied, “If you do that, it’ll make my job a lot easier.” And so it began, my foray into politics, legislation, bill drafting and testifying. But first, a visit to YouTube was in order. All those years of not paying attention had left a rather large hole in my knowledge base. I couldn’t remember the legislative steps. I didn’t know where to start. I couldn’t remember the differences between House and Senate, legislature and congress.

So I turned to the one resource that would set me on my path: School House Rock. Rosa Parks spent years readying herself for the groundbreaking civil action she performed that forever changed a turbulent moment in history. She aligned herself with the NAACP, received training in activism in worker’s rights and racial equality, and launched what was called the strongest campaign for equal justice seen in a decade.  I readied myself by watching a cartoon from the 1970’s. Once I finished my refresher, I began what I considered the most difficult part of the process. I reached out to legislators with my story. I could barely talk about what happened with my friends and family without cringing with the shame that accompanies a crime of a sexual nature.

In order to see the laws changed, I shared my story with strangers who may or may not care about my suffering. I made myself vulnerable. Since crimes of a sexual nature bring about very mixed reactions, I wanted the legislators to regard the photos as a piece of trust and intimacy that was used in a way completely opposite of its intended use: to hurt, to terrorize, to induce powerlessness, to destroy. My pictures were posted in 2010. At that time, the term Revenge Porn hadn’t yet been coined. Internet searches about nude pictures being posted returned results about online stalking and harassment. I opened the emails I would send to lawmakers with the sentence, “I am a victim of cyber harassment and stalking.” Then I briefly explained what happened avoiding that the harassment included nude pictures being posted. I was still feeling shame and couldn’t bring myself to reveal the true nature of the crime. Within a week of sending my first email, I had a meeting with US Senator Mikulski’s legislative aid. I discussed what happened and the need for legislation. I presented examples of statutes and lots of statistics. I learned a lot and walked away feeling ready to approach senators in Maryland. A few weeks later Senator Brochin called in response to the email I sent him. He invited me to help draft a bill to strengthen Maryland’s online stalking and harassment laws and asked me if I would testify in support of the bill. On February 2, 2011, I testified before the

Maryland General Assembly’s judicial committee in support of Senate bills 175 and 107. Senate bill 175 was passed into law on April 10th and went into effect on October 1st, 2011. The bill amended Maryland’s misuse of electronic mail law to include all forms of electronic communication. It was a step forward, but a small one. There are still amendments needed, and they shall come in time. I was one voice among many who came to testify that day. But I was the only victim of online harassment and revenge porn. And while it was difficult to reveal the true nature of the crime to a crowded room, it was the first step on the road I now travel as a victim advocate. Since the bill was passed, I have aligned myself with a coalition of powerful women who share my dedication to seeing legislation that makes revenge porn a crime passed in all 50 states. 

We are advocates, activists and legal researchers. I still face some of the fears I did the day I first brought my case to law enforcement, but I have embraced my role as the voice for those who have not yet found their voices. And I will speak out.

  • Dixie Lee

    Ann Marie, Thank you! Women like you are shining stars and have support from women like me and others for what you are doing. Little did I know how much I would discover and learn about this topic or crime. I’m sad that I ever had to learn about it, but grateful not to be a victim or doormat. You, and Holly Jacobs and many others such as Shelley Lubben, are also NOT DOORMATS OR VICTIMS. It’s so important to stand up to this kind of crime because so many men in power or not powerful positions just won’t care about it. It will take women like you and me to do something to changes laws and hopefully change hearts and minds too. Unfortunately there are some people that will not understand, but take heart, many will. Especially if you and I and others keep letting them know that these kinds of crimes are wrong even if the victim didn’t make all the best choices in her life. Thank you for your hard work! I’m here for you and Holly in spirit and soul. Dixie

  • cs

    hi,
    I just found out THREE days ago that I am a victim of revenge open.

    I was numb for a big chunk of those three days… I mean, I’m in a GREAT place in my life. I’m headed to the school of my dreams, in a relationship with the man of my dreams, had committed my life to Christ, have a great circle of friends, and work at a fantastic place!

    years ago, when those pictures of me were sent to my now scorned ex-lover, I didn’t see myself in this predicament.

    when I had decided to google my name one day and fell upon the link to myex.com, I was floored… I felt all of the blood rush from the tip top of my head down to my toes… numb was what I felt.

    the next day, my boyfriend had noticed I have been quiet, aloof, and glued to the computer screen. then and there, I realized I couldn’t hide one thing from him. I felt disgusted with myself and immensely ashamed. I felt that everything, EVERYTHING that I had worked for to get to where I am in my education, work and well being had dwindled down into the abyss that is revenge porn.

    when my boyfriend had found out, I was scared that he wouldn’t want to be with me anymore… that he would tell me to pack my bags, and leave. because we value our relationship and our faith is the glue, love does not judge.

    eventually, he and I have been researching for means to remove the false post of me… then I found your page, Bill 255 in California was passed, and how I could put the terrible man where he belongs for defamation, posting my photos without my consent online, AND physical, emotional, and mental abuse!

    thank you for standing up for women, like me and for helping us seek the justice and peace of mind we rightfully deserve.