Meet Leah Juliett!

Leah Juliett (they/them ) is a non-binary 21-year-old student, actor, and activist from Connecticut, and is the founder of the March Against Revenge Porn Movement and the National LGBTQ+ Townhall.

THEIR BEGINNING

Leah Juliett is a powerful non-binary, queer activist who is currently fighting for the victims of revenge porn, and those who identify as LGBTQ+. When I first asked Leah about their beginnings of their outspokenness, they said that it began in the 5th-grade when they wrote an essay for a contest called This I Believe we they talked about their core values. And “ever since then,” they told me, “I have always had a strong voice.” Ever since that 5th grade encounter, Leah has been speaking up both for themself and for others facing discrimination and unfairness.

Though Leah Juliett themself does not identify as female, a majority of their work surrounds the rights of female survivors of revenge porn and further advocates for women and their safety, comfort, and protection. Thus, we are proud to have their story shared for other young girls to read and feel empowered by.

i2.cdn_.turner.com170403171858-leah-juliett-c789cb8c07e143c1573689bad01aac34ecf10ae6.jpg

“Everyone has a fundamental right to exist.”

- Leah Juliett

I came to realize that I needed to use my voice as a tool for social good and to help amplify and accelerate my identity and the identities of others.
— Leah Juliett

THE MARCH AGAINST REVENGE PORN

The March Against Revenge Porn is a “cyber-civil organization” started by a young, queer survivor for other survivors of varying identities. Their intention behind the organization is to “combat revenge porn through federal lobbying, cyber-sex-education, and a series of nationwide protests.”

“So I am educating others by telling my story, the stories of others, and talking about legislation.”

Leah and their team at March Against Revenge Porn started last year of April 1st of 2017, when they, along with others, marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to protest inadequate legislation combating revenge porn in NYC. Not 6 months later, Mayor Bill Leguazio enacted legislation criminalizing revenge porn in the city; their endeavor was a success.

I realized as a privileged person, as a white person, as a person who has the ability to do what I do every day, I have to not speak FOR others, but use my voice as a platform for other’s voices to be heard.
 

THEIR MESSAGE

Stay alive. That is the answer to my question when I asked Leah ‘What is your message to other survivors of revenge porn?’ Leah, when telling me about this, could not emphasize enough (and I cannot emphasize enough) that there is hope. “It doesn't have to kill you.” Her message is one of hope, both to survivors of revenge porn and to young women everywhere: “Because there is no other you in the world, and no matter what the world is going through, they cannot take you out of it. Do not let them.”

Their story: At around age 15, private, nude photos of Leah were posted online after they shared them with a boy they were interested in. Once they sent him the nude pictures, he fell out of interest with them: “he no longer wanted to talk to me, and we stopped corresponding.” Soon after, Leah did something to upset him, and he said that he would ruin their life, and he proceeded to share the photos (nude ones) with boys in their school and then posted them on a website called AnonIB. “...My nude photos were associated with my name and my town and my state, so you could pretty much go to my town and find me.”

So why should we care about revenge porn? Well, after they were first victimized by revenge porn, they did not know (and many women do not know) that it was a crime. And so, they would google search, “naked pictures leaked online, what do I do?” all they would find is people who basically said that they had gone through the same thing, but that they had lost their jobs or had gotten kicked out of school or had to hide forever and could never become anything. Leah told me that they felt instantly contained and that so many survivors of revenge porn think that they cannot continue with their lives after this has happened to them; Leah created the movement to show that that idea is fundamentally untrue.

“My life is a gender bias, let me tell you.” When Leah told me this in the face of one of my question, I laughed out loud, but as they explained what they meant, my laughter turned to pensiveness. According to Leah, there are ridiculous amounts of gender bias, stereotyping and stigmatizing. Many of the places where revenge porn flourishes are filled with slut-shaming and degrading comments: “it is inherently a gendered and sexualized crime, and it needs to stop.”

I felt depressed, I felt suicidal, I felt shame, and I didn’t know what to do with my life. I kept quiet because I was so so ashamed... but I realized that this experience was either going to kill me or it was going to drive me into action.
— Leah Juliett
3E7DED2B00000578-4339424-image-a-39_1490216275801.jpg

LEAH; BEHIND THE MOVEMENT

“I never anticipated on starting a movement.” This was one of the first responses Leah had to my question of what the process has been like for them. Though Leah is embedded into their movement, that is not all the Leah is. They explained to me that, in their personal life, they have “...lost a lot of people close to me after taking on a life of activism...” Many times, people who are activist, especially if those activists are minorities, are seen as intimidating when, in fact, it is the people around them that are intimidated.

People, additionally, may believe that Leah is telling their story for their own gain or to make a name for themself. “I may have made a name from telling my story, but I believe that if I did not tell my story that I would not be alive today.” The telling of the story is a part of the healing process of any trauma that a person has gone through. Whether it be revenge porn, sexual assault, or some other type of trauma, telling the story is not based on want, it is based on NEED.

Both through their extraordinary National LGBTQ+ Town Hall, where voting-age youth together with their legislators and others discuss pressing political issues like immigration, education, healthcare, et., and their work for the March Against Revenge Porn, Leah has been able to not only rise above the prejudice they face as a young queer person, but create powerful movements both for survivors of revenge porn and for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Inspired by strength

Written by Sabrina Schoenborn

Web design by Zora Carroll

Transcribed by Sabrina Schoenborn

Photography courtesy of Leah Juliet