While the internet, camera phones, and social media are things the younger generations have grown up with, the story of Angie Varona is an example of what can happen when advanced technology is held in the hands of those who think their private photos are completely safe online.
At just 14 years old, Angie Verona believed her password-protecting online photo album was safe. So when she began taking not-fully-clothed photos of herself for her boyfriend at the time, she never assumed that years later, those photos would haunt her
In 2007, Angie uploaded a number of risqué photos of herself. At the time, her Photobucket account was set so that only her and her boyfriend could see the private photos, but when her account was hacked, her entire life changed.
The photos of the not-yet-legal teen spread like wildfire on the internet. Not only were strangers seeing her barely clothed, but the photos actually found their way onto pornographic and even pedophilic websites.
Now at 18, Angie and her family constantly have to live with torment and judgment of those who have seen the photos. After changing schools more than once, Angie is now homeschooled, and is trying to finish up the last months of her senior year.
Those that don’t know that the photos being public was the work of a hacker and not Angie, have berated and belittled her, many calling her a slut.
Though her and her parents hired lawyers to get the photos removed from various sites, they have had no success.
Since she is not naked in any of the photos, authorities have told them that they are not considered child pornography, but rather child erotica. In simple terms, their hands are tied.
And even if they managed to get some sites to remove the photos, with the internet, nothing is gone forever. Things can just easily be moved.
Today, the Miami teen has said she is partially responsible for the what happened since she is the one who took the pictures. When asked by “Nightline” anchor Terry Moran if she regrets taking the pictures, she said, “Hell yes … If I could go back in time, I would have listened to my parents, stayed off the internet, stayed off my phone, and only used it for emergencies.”
According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 1 in 5 teenage girls has sent nude or semi-nude photos of themselves via phone or posting them online.
And while Angie’s story is now being heard, she still can’t believe people don’t understand the consequences of their actions.
“I still know people who still send out pictures, and after knowing everything that’s happened to me, they still say, ‘It can’t happen to me. It’s not going to happen to me.’”
Angie is currently working to inform and stop those who are thinking about or have shared photos of themselves, letting them know that even if they think they’re protected, that’s not necessarily true.
Though she has been verbally abused and even stalked, the always-smiling teenager knows she cannot stop what has happened no matter how hard she wishes. Instead, she looks to her future.
When she gets her diploma, Angie said she hopes to continue her education and become either a lawyer or a veterinarian.
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