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A young mum has told how she tried to take her own life after her ex-fiancé plastered nude pictures of her all over social media.
Chloe Leigh McIlwaine, 23, from Belfast, became the victim of revenge porn when ex-partner Stevie Brunty hacked into her Facebook account and posted a series of private sexual photos of the mum-of-two.
Devastated Chloe said she became a recluse and was left unable to leave the house following the incident.
She has decided to share her story in a bid to raise awareness about the impact of revenge porn.
"I can finally live my life now without having those photos of him hanging over my head," she told the Belfast Telegraph.
"I really hope people see what I have been through and realise you don't have to just be a victim of this. There is something you can do about it.
"Go through the justice system and speak out. Never, ever hold back. Don't ignore the warning signs. Your body is your body and nobody has the right to share indecent pictures."
Chloe and Steven were friends who became lovers in August 2018. After a whirlwind romance, Brunty proposed to Ms McIlwaine on New Year's Eve 2018, with a love-struck Chloe saying 'yes'.
But as quickly as the romance blossomed, it turned sour and the pair split in June 2019.
Chloe thought the relationship would improve, but things just got worse and the couple kept falling out and arguing.
She claims her partner was 'very paranoid and controlling' and he would log on to her Facebook account on his phone.
In August 2019, shortly after leaving Brunty, Ms McIlwaine awoke to find private sexual photographs of herself on her Facebook account, which had been uploaded by Brunty, and her whole world came crashing down.
She couldn't get onto her Facebook account because Brunty had changed the password and took control of her social media accounts.
She said: "These indecent pictures of me were uploaded at 4am while I was sleeping. They appeared on my account as if I had posted them myself. They were pictures of me completely naked."
Chloe says she had taken them and sent them to her fiancé without the intention anyone else would ever see them.
"The way he was with me at the start, I never thought he'd be capable of doing something like that.
"I think he thought to himself 'How else can I control this situation?' because he was losing me and losing control of the situation."
She claims she attempted to take her own life after seeing the pictures because her 'whole dignity was taken from me'.
Chloe was concerned that the images were "all over social media" and she just kept thinking about people screenshotting them or sharing them in group chats.
She told the Belfast Telegraph: "I have two young children and I kept thinking 'Are they going to grow up and hear about their mum having naked pictures all over the internet?' It was really very hard."
Ms McIlwaine went immediately to the police, who were able to regain her access to her Facebook account before arresting Brunty.
She says she wanted to do things the right way because she needed justice for herself and for other women.
"The weeks after it initially happened were awful. Even now, to this day, I wonder who saw the pictures and where they went. It's so disgusting that he would do that to me.
"If I didn't have such supportive family and friends, I don't think I'd have been able to get through that stage of my life."
Brunty denied disclosing private sexual photographs but was convicted after a hearing at Laganside Magistrates. He was also charged with improper use of a public electronic communications network, but the charge was dismissed.
Ms McIlwaine said: "Once I heard he was convicted, I felt like a new girl. Everybody who called me a liar or doubted me was proved wrong. The courts, the judge and the justice system knew I wasn't lying and I finally got justice."
Stevie Brunty will be sentenced later this month.
For emotional support, you can call the Samaritans 24-hour helpline on 116 123, email [email protected], visit a Samaritans branch in person or go to the Samaritans website.
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