In 2014, before the Weinstein revelations, before #MeToo, there was another disturbing cultural phenomenon affecting women: the massive breach of Apple iCloud data that allowed hackers to access and disseminate the private, nude photographs of dozens of celebrities. Known as Celebgate (or by its way grosser name, “The Fappening”), it targeted women including Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, and Kirsten Dunst. Lawrence, who was one of most high-profile victims of the attack, spoke about it recently to the Hollywood Reporter, admitting she’s still understandably traumatized.
“When the hacking thing happened, it was so unbelievably violating that you can’t even put it into words,” she says. “I think that I’m still actually processing it. When I first found out it was happening, my security reached out to me. It was happening minute-to-minute—it was almost like a ransom situation where they were releasing new ones every hour or so. And, I don’t know, I feel like I got gang-banged by the f***ing planet—like, there’s not one person in the world that is not capable of seeing these intimate photos of me. You can just be at a barbecue and somebody can just pull them up on their phone. That was a really impossible thing to process.”
“A lot of women were affected, and a lot of them reached out to me about suing Apple or suing [others]—and none of that was gonna really bring me peace, none of that was gonna bring my nude body back to me and Nic [Lawrence’s former boyfriend Nicholas Hoult], the person that they were intended for. It wasn’t gonna bring any of that back. So I wasn’t interested in suing everybody; I was just interested in healing.”
What happened to Lawrence is similar to the disturbing “revenge porn” trend, wherein men non-consensually release intimate photos or videos of ex-lovers as a means of revenge or public shaming. A 2016 study conducted by Samantha Bates at Simon Fraser University reveals that victims of revenge porn often experience post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts.
Living through that kind of ordeal is something no woman should have to experience, and it’s compounded for someone who is internationally recognized. Perhaps the most heartbreaking revelation is how much it impacted Lawrence’s self-esteem: “I think, like, a year and a half ago, somebody said something to me about how I was ‘a good role model for girls,’ and I had to go into the bathroom and sob because I felt like an imposter—I felt like, ‘I can’t believe somebody still feels that way after what happened.’ It’s so many different things to process when you’ve been violated like that.”
While the hackers behind Celebgate, two men named Ryan Collins and Ed Majerczyk, served time, unfortunately, similar violations continue to happen to famous and non-famous women alike. Recently, singer Sia opted to release her own nude photo, taken by paparazzi without her permission, on social media in order to stop the photographer from profiting. While that’s certainly one way to deal with the issue, it’s really not a dilemma anyone should have to face in the first place.