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Gabrielle Union: Sharing Stolen Nude Photos Is a ‘New Form of Sexual Abuse’

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On Wednesday, actress Gabrielle Union published an essay on Cosmopolitan.com about how it felt to have her personal photos hacked while she was on her honeymoon. Union was one of the victims of the massive photo hack in August that targeted stars like Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton.

Here’s what she said:

It felt like The Hunger Games: You’re waiting to be attacked. Friends are assuring you that this will pass and people will move on to the next thing. But in this case, the next thing means the next victim — the next woman to have her naked body exposed to strangers against her will. And the crowd in the arena is going wild. People are critiquing and judging, cheering for more. They’re shouting, “Next! Next!”

She also notes that she felt especially helpless because so many of the photos that surfaced had been deleted years ago. Unfortunately, it seems that the “delete” button is practically meaningless:

I felt extreme anxiety, a complete loss of control. I suddenly understood that deleting things means nothing. You think it’s gone? It’s not. What is the point of even including a delete function on a phone if it doesn’t really delete? I had deleted the photos from my phone, but apparently they had remained on some server somewhere, unbeknownst to me, where hackers could find them.

Union calls the hack a “new form of sexual abuse,” and declares that the “violation” is about control over her own body. “People sometimes argue: but you wear skimpy bikinis — what’s the difference? The difference is that you are the one who chooses whether to show your body,” she writes. “When billions of people on the Internet can see you naked without your consent, it’s a crime.”

MORE: How Nudity Became the New Normal

The actress also compared speaking publicly about the hacking incident to when she was raped as a college student, noting that she stood up for herself then by helping the rapist get prosecuted, and she will stand up for herself now. “I was raised to speak up,” she writes.

The Bring It On star also said she was surprised at the outpouring of support, sometimes from places she least expected. “In LA, the photographers were waiting, but not to attack: They actually high-fived me. ‘We’re on Team Gab,'” she writes. “When the paparazzi tell you something is bad, you know it’s really bad.”




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Write to Charlotte Alter at charlotte.alter@time.com