«I’m tired of hiding»: Masha Babko for the first time told about herself and those who tried to drive her to suicide
Masha Babko – «the girl from the memes» which almost everyone who gets online from time to time must have seen. But her Internet popularity can hardly be envied. At the age of 10 she became a victim of a pedophile and a few years later photos and videos with her spread on the Internet. In November 2011, after the joint operation with Interpol, the pedophile photographer Sergei Kropochkin was detained. During the investigation it turned out he was the part of the international criminal group, selling illegal videos. Kropochkin was sentenced to 14 years in juvie. In the following eight years Masha has switched five schools, has tried to commit a suicide three times and she even has thought about moving to another city. Finally, she decided to tell about her journey into the abyss of human hatred and about how difficult it is to get out of it.
Why she decided to break the silence
This year I’m turning 20 and I’m tired of hiding, of being afraid of my own name, my face, of pretending to be someone else. And of being scared of what happened in the past. This past mustn’t make me such a person – introverted, lonely. So I’ve decided to try to be myself and to do everything for myself. I created web pages in VK and on Instagram and the guys from MDK wrote me, they suggested joining them and I agreed – no harm in trying, they have a large public page with lots of followers. All my life I’ve dealt with inadequate people, so the reaction of the audience did not scare me. We must treat everything with humor.Of course different people send me DMs. There are haters among them but there are also adequate people and, by the way, there are even more of them than haters. They write me nice things, well-wishing, suggest meeting, hanging out. In general, good guys write me. It happens, of course, that very unpleasant things are sent to me. I answer to some of them just to make fun, others I just ignore. I’m sick of seeing all the same stuff all the time. When I lived with my parents in Novosibirsk, they even came to see me. That was even before I «came out of hiding», so to speak. Probably my old classmates leaked my address and strangers came here. That was very scary, you don’t know what to expect from them.
About the terrible story
I remember exactly that I was 10 when it all started. I had a friend in the yard and she had her own girlfriend, Inna (the name was changed – editor’s note). So one day she invited me to take part in a kind of advertisement of children's clothing. I agreed and went.That girl Inna told us that we shouldn’t tell our parents about it from the get go. In general, the first shoot was ordinary; we had our clothes on, nothing special. However, initially I understood that something was wrong. And then somehow one thing led to another.Parents didn’t suspect anything. Firstly, we never came home late, we always arrived before nightfall. Secondly, we could always lie and tell that we were «going for a walk with girls». It’s like you girlfriends come for you and you leave – that’s all. We met with him in the appointed place, far away from people, so nobody would see us getting in the car and driving somewhere. It was actually easy to lie – everyone believes children. Thirdly, it didn’t last long – he was soon apprehended and parents didn’t have a chance to suspect anything. As he explained to us, [orders for photos and videos] came from abroad. From different countries from different people that «love children» and love watching little girls. They used secret accounts to pay him. Sometimes he was sent scripts in English. He translated them and then explained what we had to do. Why was I so popular? Because most of the orders were for me. He gave us money. And actually when I got them I didn’t know what to spend them on, half of the money remained with me. My parents didn’t know about the money, of course.It’s difficult for me to answer why I agreed, why I kept on coming there. I have a very good family, we lacked nothing. Of course, I’m not an only child in the family – I have three brothers and a sister and I didn’t get much attention from my parents: father worked a lot, my mother took care of children and I helped her. That’s all. But parents gave us everything, everything they could. The thing is, all the girls trusted him very much. There was no psychological pressure, no threats to tell everything to our parents, no. He wouldn’t tell anyone, he understood that he would get in prison. It was foolish to threaten the kids. Actually, he was a friend to many of them. Honestly, outside of shootings, he could communicate with girls, we could always call him; he could come and talk to you, just talk. He could give us money, take somewhere. He was like a friend. I was very lonely back then and I used to talk to him.
About the letter from the prison
He was detained in winter, shortly before my Birthday – I was turning 12. As far as I know, there was one girl which called her friends for the shoot. And that girl’s father was a policeman. And when he found money he didn’t give her, she told him where she got them from. When he was detained, I think there was even Special Police Force. I know this from rumors from the girls. We were walking and once Tanya came to me and said: «He was detained, we’re fucked». And everything collapsed. I understood what was going to happen. I was preparing myself for this. I was afraid of my parents, their judgment. At that age, I was not afraid of the reaction of the society.Nobody still knows how all these «treasures» got on the Internet. Many wrote that the police uploaded it because they got all the information. Many say that the customers themselves were to blame. At first everyone was afraid of their parents and then, when it appeared on the Internet, it was the end. That was a veil, a cross on our lives. But of course it all started with parents. When the police summon arrived, my mother came with me. When she went out of the office she was crying, she didn’t understand anything at all: how could she miss such a huge gap of the life of her own child which seemed to grow right in front of her eyes. Then there were examinations, the police worked with us. We came there separately, on our own – we couldn’t tell anything with our parents around, we had to remember everything in detail, when, what, at what time, we had to describe places. It was very difficult because we had never thought we had to remember anything. There were no investigatory experimentations but they drove me to the apartments and I remembered the details. But there was a forensic investigation. There was no psychologist during the investigations but a female investigator interrogated us. She was very sympathetic, didn’t put pressure on us. We were several times at trial. Nothing depended on us there. We were just sitting in the court-room silent. He was being sentenced for half an hour and we were like: «Damn, when it’s gonna end, I wanna go home». Parents, of course, were in shock, no one was looking at each other. We all were disconnected. I haven’t seen these girls, my girlfriends, after that. Sergey was sitting behind the bars during this session, that’s all. During one session he apologized but more like in front of our parents than in front of us. But it didn’t alleviate his guilt. Now, I know for sure that he is alive and in prison. I can disclose a secret: last year I got a letter from the prison. He wanted to apply for parole, on the grounds that the girls were shooting of their own will, there was no violence. I kept the letter. He wanted to receive a letter from each girl, so we would respond. Of course, he didn’t give any orders, nothing like that; he just asked our opinions on the story now that we understand everything. All the girls, by the way, as far as I know, are safe and sound, many got married. Well, of course, I know that from rumors, I don’t communicate with them personally after the trial.
The hardest thing started after that. The worst period was from 12 to 16, after it all appeared on the Internet. It was impossible for me to make friends. Before the photos and videos appeared, nobody knew anything: the court session was private. Only a few teachers were invited to take part but they were obliged to remain silent. And then it suddenly began: friends started showing me this, asking «what the hell is this». Many people began to turn away from me, even those who had known me for a long time. They just changed their opinion about me like I wasn’t a person any longer, just a waste of skin. In most cases, these were boys. The girls just said something, like «whore», «prostitute». And the guys really behaved aggressively: humiliated and bullied me, it was such a psychological pressure. Well, at least no one tried to cause me harm physically. I couldn’t stand it for a long time, I used to leave schools – I had switched 5 schools. After the 9th grade I tried studying at Novosibirsk River College but I was also bullied there. I don’t even know why I entered there. I didn’t like it from the start, the education was poor, and when it all started, the teachers didn’t even try to protect me. I remember when I came the next day, when everyone showed these photos and videos to each other, and they were like: «Don’t come tomorrow. If you come, you’re fucked». And suddenly they called me to the college administration and started showing me photographs. They turned the monitor towards me, they were scrolling through photos and they were like: «What is this? ». I said: «Damn. What are you talking about, I’m 16, why are you showing me this? Call the public prosecution office, let them explain everything, you have no right to show me this». And I left that day. I survived until the third class and then just left. I had a nervous breakdown. The last school was an evening school and only there nobody gave a fuck. There were people who hadn’t completed their studies: adults who wanted to get a diploma. There it was all the same to everyone.
About suicide attempts
There was no help: neither from school psychologists, nor from ordinary ones. It appeared only when I tried to commit a suicide. But then everything is clear: they register you, make appointments with a psychologist, you visit him. I had three suicide attempts altogether. The first one – when I was 14. I took pills twice, once I tried to cut my veins. And each time I was saved. And suddenly I realized that I couldn’t let down my parents like this – they were very helpful. If I die, they will hurt a lot as well as friends I’ve made. By the way, at some point, my father suggested leaving the city, moving to my grandmother to Krasnodar Territory, but I did not want to move, I did not want to run away.Also books saved me. Actually, I love reading. I love science fiction. The last book I’ve read is called «Alice in Wonderland Syndrome». It's about a hacker girl who takes revenge on her old friends for what they did to her. Pretty interesting book.My love for reading started from that period of my life when I suffered from loneliness, I lived according to the «home-school-home» schedule. The only thing that calmed me down was books. I immersed myself into them. Once my dad came to me and said: «Take it, it’s Jules Verne, «Journey to the Center of the Earth». It’s my favorite book; I read it when I was your age for the first time. Check it». So, I’ve checked, I was reading it till the morning. And somehow I fell in love with fantasy and science fiction. If I write myself, it’s only for me – I keep a diary, my own thoughts, it’s very personal. Maybe I’ll write a book someday. I don’t know what I will be like but it will definitely be something supernatural. Not about my life – there’s nothing to write about. Now I’ve overcome that age when I wanted to commit a suicide because I’ve understood that I’m not ready to kill myself and lose my life because some random people hate me. Who are they to me, why do I have to prove anything? I will just live for myself. I’m not some kind of «injured person», I’m pretty adequate, I think straight and understand I’ve made mistakes, that my suicide attempts were foolish, that was my childhood, the romanticization of suicide because you feel bad. I’m an ordinary girl, it’s just one bad thing happened in my life once, that’s all. The tail of this story still follows me and I don’t know what to do with it. I need to remove it somehow. Even though I understand that it will haunt me all my life. I’ve accepted it. I was thinking that I could help somehow those who have similar stories to mine. But I just don’t know who will listen to me, that’s it. I haven’t experienced anything supernatural, many are raped, and worse things are done to them. And that thing happened to me because I was a stupid child.
About good people and big plans
I could never have thought that I would begin to «hype» on my past. I mean, so that I’m told, that I’m «hyping on it». But I’m just sick of living like that, like I’m an undue part of society. I always feel like this. Sometimes people recognize me at the street, they are like: «Oh, you did that child porn!». Sometimes they come to me, suggest taking a photo. I’m not proud of it in any case, of course I refuse. In general, after all these years, little things surprise me. However, when people write me and offer to have sex for money or to do porn – it surprises me. Moreover, it is clear these people are adults. Nothing stops them: I’m of full age, they can offer it. But thanks to this story and all that came afterwards, I found real friends who went through fire and water with me, I can say. They protected me, didn’t believe the rumors. Now I have them and I’m really glad. You need to try to find advantages in everything and I’ve found them. Now I have lots of plans. First of all, I want to get a higher education, not just 11 grades. I have lots of ideas, I would like to be a psychologist, to help boys and girls like me who have the same experience. I was interested in how such kind of help is performed in the Western world, I’ve watched different films, I’ve read books about violence, about how people live it out. It’s interesting but my story isn’t similar to their stories. There people are raped and forced. It’s not my case. I also want to move to Moscow. Maybe then somewhere else – I’ll think about it. Also I have a dream – to go to Amsterdam with my friends. There is a beach from the movie «Knockin' on Heaven's Door» - this movie is very touching, I would love to go there. Maybe someday I would want to have family and children. But I have a fear that I can’t keep eye on them because we live in such a society. Nowadays sex is everywhere. And here is what I want to say. You have to be strong, no matter what the situation in your life is, you need to be yourself and move on. You can’t give up on yourself. I want to live for myself, create for myself, for the people I love. I want people to see that, despite the events from your past, you are not a bad person. And I want to show it to at least some people.