Since the advent of social media, online dating and instant messaging, sending and receiving videos and pictures has become an intrinsic part of how we live our lives. Sharing videos and photos has never been easier nor more instant, and whilst modern technology has its benefits, it undoubtedly has an ugly side too, cyberbullying, upskirting, sextortion and revenge porn to name a few.
Once someone you’ve been intimate with has a nude or semi-naked photo or video of you, it’s increasingly difficult to control where it ends up, especially if that relationship breaks down or ends on less than amicable terms.
The BBC recently reported a surge in cases, with campaigners suggesting the crime has been exacerbated by lockdown.
Revenge porn – the act of distributing non-consensual sexual material on the internet – can have devastating and far-reaching effects on the victim’s mental health. Since legislation in 2015, it has been illegal to share such content both online and offline, however, the BBC recently reported a surge in cases, with campaigners suggesting the crime has been exacerbated by lockdown.
The dedicated Revenge Porn Helpline reported a record number of calls in August 2020 with two-thirds of reported cases involving women, whilst research by domestic violence charity Refuge showed that one in seven young women have been threatened with sharing intimate photos or film without their consent. Lisa King, director of communications and external affairs at Refuge said, “Threatening to share intimate images isn’t yet a crime which means millions of women have been controlled and coerced by their abusers and are made to live with the fear that this may happen to them.” Refuge is now calling on the government to change legislation to give victims the protection they need.
All of this is evidence enough that revenge porn is shockingly common and we still need to keep the conversation going to drive further legislation and awareness of this appalling crime.
This is image-based sexual abuse not a bit of kinky fun and private images should stay private. Whether you’ve been a victim of revenge porn or you’re here to read up on your rights so you know exactly how to handle yourself, this blog post details everything you need to know.
What exactly is revenge porn?
Revenge porn, also known as intimate image abuse and non-consensual pornography, refers to the sharing of private intimate content, either videos or photos, without consent and with the intent to cause distress. It applies both online and offline and includes showing someone a physical or electronic image, uploading it to the internet or sharing via text message, email or other instant messaging apps. Most victims are women but it’s a crime that affects every gender identity.
Most victims are women but it’s a crime that affects every gender identity.
Sexual material or intimate content doesn’t just refer to explicit images or footage showing genitals but anything the person would consider to be sexual, including posing in a sexually provocative way or performing a sex act.
What does the law say about revenge porn?
In England, Wales and Scotland revenge porn was made a criminal offence under the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015. If you are found guilty of the offence, you could be prosecuted and sentenced for up to two years in prison.
As part of a new Law Commission review around online abuse, revenge porn victims could also be granted anonymity, so they can no longer be named publicly. Currently, revenge porn is classified as a communications crime meaning victims are not granted the same automatic anonymity as victims of sexual abuse. It will also review whether cyber-flashing and deepfake pornography (when an individual’s face is superimposed onto pornographic content and made to look and sound realistic) should be criminalised. The ministry of justice is due to report back later this year.
What to do if you’re a victim of revenge porn…
If someone has shared a private sexual video or image of you without your consent, you can report this to the police by dialling 101, if it’s an emergency and you’re in immediate danger, dial 999.
You can also reach out to The Revenge Porn Helpline – the UK’s only service dedicated to supporting adults who have been the victim of intimate image abuse.
You can also reach out to The Revenge Porn Helpline – the UK’s only service dedicated to supporting adults who have been the victim of intimate image abuse. The dedicated helpline was established in 2015 alongside the legislation that made sharing intimate photos and videos without consent a criminal offence. Their committed team of helpline practitioners give 1-1 confidential advice and support on everything from social media community guidelines, content removal and what evidence you need to gather when reporting the crime to the authorities as well as legal advice. They can also give confidential advice on upskirting, threats to share intimate images and webcam blackmail (sextortion).
Due to current covid-19 restrictions, The Revenge Porn Helpline is operating an email-only service, open Monday – Friday 10am-4pm. Reach out here: [email protected]
Keep all the evidence
Always take screenshots or print hard copies of the content where it’s been shared/posted (social media, website, email) or any communication threatening to share said content. Once you’ve reported the intimate content for violating community guidelines, social media sites can take it down pretty quickly. Make sure you’ve always got the proof.
Tell your friends & family
While this egregious crime might make you feel like hiding away, this is absolutely not your fault and you definitely don’t deserve to carry the burden. Someone did a sh*tty very illegal thing to you. They violated your body and your trust and that’s on them.
Someone did a sh*tty very illegal thing to you. They violated your body and your trust and that’s on them.
Opening up to your close friends and family about what’s happened to you and explaining that you’ve been a victim of internet crime (let’s call it what it is) will help alleviate the humiliation and prepare them, should they see the content on the internet or social media unexpectedly. It’ll also help give them the heads up, so they can be there for you and respond sensitively.
Get ongoing help & support
Remember to focus on the things you can control in this situation, know your legal rights and be compassionate towards yourself. The only person you or anyone else should be judging is the perpetrator. If you’re struggling with your mental health or find yourself internalising feelings of shame or accountability, consider speaking to a therapist who specialises in sexual trauma. You’re not alone.