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The damage of revenge porn: a victim’s story

Image: Mariana Des Forges

Image: Mariana Des Forges

What is Revenge Porn?

Revenge porn refers to the act of a partner or ex-partner purposefully distributing images or videos of a sexual nature without the other person’s consent.

In April 2015 this became illegal.

On the Government’s website it describes this law as:

criminalising the sharing of private, sexual photographs or films, where what is shown would not usually be seen in public. Sexual material not only covers images that show the genitals but also anything that a reasonable person would consider to be sexual, so this could be a picture of someone who is engaged in sexual behaviour or posing in a sexually provocative way. Sending explicit or nude images of this kind may, depending on the circumstances, be an offence under the Communications Act 2003 or the Malicious Communications Act 1988.

An investigation found that between April and December 2015,  1,160 cases of revenge pornography were reported.

The analysis of freedom of information requests by the BBC also found that in these statistics the average age of a revenge porn victim was 25 with some as young as 11 years old.

The report discovered that:

  • Three victims were 11 years old.
  •  30% of offences involved young people under 19.
  • Around 11% of reported offences resulted in the alleged perpetrator being charged.
  • 61% of reported offenses resulted in no charge or action being taken against the alleged perpetrator.
  • In 68% of cases in which social media was mentioned, Facebook was said to be used the most by perpetrators. Instagram was second, having been mentioned in 12% of cases and Snapchat in 5%.

The investigation found that in many instances, cases dried up due to lack of evidence or withdrawal of victim support.

A Victim’s Story

For months Szara* (21 at the time) was threatened by her boyfriend that he would share intimate pictures following the break down of their relationship.

She told Londonmultimedianews her story and describes how much damage it can do to a victim’s mental well being.

This kind of harassment and abuse is not only used by spurned ex partners for pathological reasons like ideas of revenge, it is also done to make money.

Sites like SeenMyGF and MyEx charge users $100 a year to access a plethora of private photographs and videos uploaded by, almost invariably, men of their ex girlfriends.

Rebekah Wells was one such woman who googled herself following a break-up to find intimate images of herself from her relationship all over the internet on commercial porn sites.

She managed to get the photos removed, and although the cases against her ex who uploaded them dissolved, she launched a site Women Against Revenge Porn to help other victims of revenge porn.

Fighting Revenge Porn

With young adults and  children immersed in a new internet culture, there are a whole host of new social and legal challenges, online safety is an imperative. Ben Reese of the NSPCC said:

It is shocking that children as young as 13 are becoming victims of revenge porn – and underlines the urgent need for action by social media sites to improve safety.

Young people also need to be aware of the serious risks of sending explicit material or photos of themselves. Once an image is sent there is no control over where it will end up or who will see it.

Nyika Allen, Executive Director of the New Mexico Technology Council, expressed the same sentiments in a widely watched TEDx talk she did after finding herself a victim of revenge porn, following the end of a relationship.

In her speech, she described her experience, how she dealt with the psychological aftermath of online abuse and  the work she does with local policy makers in order to ensure future victims have the right support to fight back.

Following the new legislation in 2011, the Government have launched a helpline that offers support and advice to revenge porn victims in the U.K at 0845 6000 459.

More information about government support and the helpline can be accessed here.

*this name has been changed for protection.

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