"Fighting back is a transformative act," writes Carrie Goldberg in her book "Nobody’s Victim: Fighting Psychos, Stalkers, Pervs, and Trolls," which powerfully recounts the stories of many women who were transformed by their own acts of fighting back against the attacks of their former partners, confidants and significant others. Scaffolded by the personal stories of her clients, Goldberg, an attorney, walks readers through the legal challenges and difficult steps that must be taken to assert one’s sexual privacy rights, as well as the systematic problems in the law and its enforcement that remain unaddressed today. Boldly telling her own story of abuse, she explains how she needed to find a "skilled fighter who would navigate both the law and the changing digital landscape; someone who understood the threat of privacy violations and knew what to do when a psycho was spinning out of control."
Not long after, she became that skilled fighter.
Goldberg’s emphatic, non-judgmental narrative sincerely depicts her clients’ experiences, narrating what it feels like to be attacked in a way that she describes as "meant to crush …soul[s]." At the same time, her juridical mind analyzes the facts, lawsuits and cases to explain the notion of "sexual privacy" and its importance for individuals and society.
In my role as a privacy researcher, I have studied and written extensively about the complexity of the notion of privacy, the difficulty in drawing a fair line between privacy rights and other fundamental values and rights, such as freedom of expression and the high degree of effort required to demonstrate privacy harms in a legally cognizable way. This book illuminates all these issues and reflects the obvious importance that sexual privacy has in each of our lives. It is both a hard book to read and a hard book to put down. Her legal battles against school officials for their unfair, illegal attitudes toward her teen clients bothered me so much, as did her analysis of the weaknesses of existing privacy protections. There are many more examples she shares about how men and the system itself frame women in ways that are totally irrespective of their bodies, minds and souls.
While the predators and abusers she is fighting back against are not new to society, Goldberg compellingly captures how the use of the internet has facilitated their crimes in ways that make these both more intense and of a different nature than before. She describes how a single bad actor who is "[a]rmed with nothing but a laptop and shielded by anonymity … can wreak unmitigated chaos and ruin the lives of countless victims."
Goldberg's arguments about Section 230 of the U.S. Communications Decency Act should be taught in law schools. And so should the work she and her legal team did in an effort to change the practices of global companies, including dating app Grindr. It's worth reading about their efforts to secure protection for and removal of nonconsensual images and videos from the web, advancement of case law, and demand for legislative reforms. They include many important details, as well as a first-hand account of these cases.
Ultimately, her focus is not on her or her team’s efforts to hold men accountable for their crimes, but on how this whole fight has strengthened and transformed those who once felt they were powerless. Above all, she makes it clear that the women and men who must deal with these kinds of horrible abuses and violations are not alone and that they are "nobody’s victim."
Goldberg’s stubbornness and the way that she empowers so many others to fight back within the book's pages are admirable. At the beginning of her book, she writes, "Some people call me a 'passionate advocate' or a 'social justice warrior.' I’d rather be called a ruthless mother*cker.'" Although I do not know what you would call her, she is that in my eyes. I wish there were more people like her, because the world is in constant need of people fighting back against the actions of psychos, stalkers, pervs and trolls.
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