Melissa King is shown in a photo from the Miss Delaware Teen USA website. / Gannett
DOVER, Del. - Now that a teenage beauty queen has resigned amid allegations that she appeared in a pornographic video, she needs to take care of herself, a psychiatrist says.
Whether or not the video that surfaced Monday showed Melissa King, 18, who was crowned Miss Delaware Teen USA in November, she has been judged because of its existence.
She has denied it is her.
"When people are exposed or victimized, the hurtful things that are said can be devastating and overwhelming," said Dr. Mark Borer, a psychiatrist based here who does not know King nor details about her situation. "All those things add up, making this a very difficult or painful situation ... especially someone looked up to as a heroine."
In addition to relinquishing her crown Tuesday, King took down her Facebook page. Meanwhile, derogatory comments and words of support streamed on her Twitter feed.
On Twitter, King seemed to ignore the scathing words Tuesday but thanked friends and others who stepped up in her defense.
Borer said King should do just that: Seek help and support from those she trusts.
"There is a real risk of depression or self-harm," he said. "There is always risk of self-harm in people that feel confronted by this, such an overwhelming push-back."
In another video filmed last year, for K.I.S.H Home Inc., a Delaware non-profit for young women and girls, King recounts her experience growing up in the foster care system. She said she entered it at age 12 and "aged out" when she turned 18.
The Bethany Beach, Del., resident does not discuss why she left the care of her family. But she does highlight the challenges she faced, particularly the therapy, doctors' appointments, court hearings, lack of privacy, financial instability and consistency, frequent transfer among homes and schools.
In the porn video, the woman tells an unidentified interviewer who asks why she decided to make the film: "I thought it would be fun. And I needed the money."
Borer said such motivation is not unusual.
"There can be a lot of reasons," he said. "A person that did that may have experienced some kind of sexual trauma when they were younger and may be vulnerable to acting that out again. Sometimes people, when they are exposed to physical or emotional abuse when they were younger or witness domestic abuse, sometimes they have a sense of male dominance over females."
Even when someone seems self-confident, Borer said, they may actually be very vulnerable.
Film directors may "tap into that vulnerability," he said.
"If their inner esteem is low, a person can still be just as vulnerable to being used," Borer said. "There is a lot of using of young adults, and many do get used and enter into pornography."
It's easy for people to place the blame on the person filmed, he said, noting it's important to step back and look at people doing the filming - and their audience.
Web-savvy adolescents and young adults may be more exposed to pornography than ever before. While sexual feelings are normal, Borer said fulfilling them on the Internet is not.
Taylor Jones, a junior at William Penn High School in New Castle, Del., says sexual behavior on the Internet and social media is prevalent among her peers.
"With smartphones, Instagram, Twitter, you can access anybody in a heartbeat," said Jones, 17.
Jones said many boys at school think girls should act like the "voluptuous" girlfriends of the rappers they idolize. And by their late teens, many think they are mature and grown.
"The look nowadays is to comport yourself as an older man or woman, which is good professionally or academically, but they don't realize they should cherish their youth," she said.
Still, Jones said she sees a lot of pressure to be accepted, and pictures and texts that people send reach others en masse with technology.
"They think it's socially acceptable. And because they're grown now, they think they have jurisdiction over their own lives," she said. "But they don't realize the consequences of it."
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