Revenge Porn and the Media: The Call For Change

We have already talked about the growing revenge porn trend, but there’s plenty more we could say on the topic. It’s also been in the news again recently.

In case you missed our previous post, we’ll start with a definition.

Revenge porn is the act of sharing sexual explicit images of your former partner publically (usually online, but they might be printed and distributed by hand, or sent via mobile phones). These images might have been obtained consensually, but they also might have been stolen. There are specific websites dedicated to this practice, where users are encouraged to share images along with personal information, and to send abusive messages to the victim. The purpose is to embarrass and humiliate, but the effects are much further reaching than the person who shares the images might first consider.

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This practice is different from other forms of sexual exploitation because it is more of a vicious afterthought than a premeditated and planned offense. Explicit images might be shared with a person voluntarily as a token of the relationship, and then the sender will have no control over what is done with those images next. While you might trust the person you have sent them to implicitly, you don’t know what will happen in future. They may have no intention of letting anyone else see them at the time, but when the relationship ends so might the trust.

The fact that you can’t guarantee that those photos will stay private for ever is a big problem, and revenge porn can be the result. Following a break up, things get said and done in the heat of the moment. Mobile technology means that we’re able to connect with people on a global scale. It’s instant, it’s thoughtless, and it’s easy. There’s no need to think about what you’re doing because it’s so simple. Even if you regret your actions afterwards, whatever you’ve shared is already out there, and it’s all too easy for others to share, copy, or save your images.

Behaving online

We’re told to be careful on social media what we say, because it can hurt our career prospects. Think about Paris Brown, whose offensive tweets caused her to lose her job as youth police commissioner. When you share something offensive which reflects badly on you, it’s your choice to share that. No one else is responsible.

When we share something privately though, it’s a different matter. We have a trust with that person and we don’t expect them to break it. But sometimes they might.

Unfortunately the best way to stop sexual explicit photographs appearing online is to make sure you don’t take them, and you don’t let anyone else take them either.

What’s changing?

Recently, campaigners have been pushing for laws to protect against psychological abuse. Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has stated that the government are very open to changing the law in order to tackle this rapidly spiralling problem.

Polly Neate, chief executive of the Women’s Aid charity said that “To be meaningful, any attempt to tackle revenge porn must also take account of all other kinds of psychological abuse and controlling behaviour, and revenge porn is just another form of coercive control.

“That control is central to domestic violence, which is why we’re campaigning for all psychological abuse and coercive control to be criminalised. We urge Mr Grayling and the Home Office to go further, and ensure victims can get the support of the criminal justice system for all the abuse they experience.”

There are some laws currently in place, but they just don’t go far enough to prevent abuse.

There is currently legislation which criminalises the practice in some US states, although in California they do not cover self-taken photographs (which make up as much of 80% of all revenge porn).

If you’re the victim of revenge porn you can contact the website and request that your images are removed. We would welcome a change in legislation to protect victims, but in order to protect yourself we’d encourage avoiding explicit photographs altogether. Remember, the creation or possession of an indecent image of a minor is a criminal offense, meaning that if you’re under 18, the police could get involved. Protect yourself and think before you take or send any images.

Remember you can contact us via our live chat facility which is located at the bottom of this page, or by calling us for free confidential support on 0808 800 1037.

 
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