What Is Revenge Porn? How Can Victims Protect Themselves?

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Revenge Porn is a phenomenon where private nude images are posted online without consent. This can have dire consequences for the victims who are targeted.

revenge

Photo: KITV

Victims of revenge porn may discover their private nude photos or videos have been non-consensually posted on the internet.

What is revenge porn?

Also known as non-consensual pornography, the term “revenge porn” refers to the posting of explicit images or videos of a person without her or his permission. This appears to be a form of gendered harassment: studies have shown that 70% of all online harassment is reported by women, and at least 60% of the perpetrators are male. 90% of all revenge porn victims are identified as women. The harasser is most commonly an ex that is seeking to intimidate or humiliate his former partner or to blackmail her into continuing the relationship.

Though the majority of material seems to circulate through websites dedicated to revenge porn, perpetrators have used many online means to distribute images, such as setting up fake Facebook accounts, emailing images to friends, family members or coworkers, and even selling CDs of images or videos on Ebay.

Photos posted to revenge porn sites usually include personal information, such as the victim’s name and city, and in extreme but not uncommon cases include contact information. According to endrevengeporn.com, 49% of victims have been harassed or stalked online by people who saw the material.

In addition to online harassment, revenge porn impacts its victims in many ways. Victims report emotional distress, panic attacks and depression. They have lost their jobs, are forced to change their names, are harassed in public, and are subjected to death threats.

Take Threats Seriously

According a McAfee study, one in ten ex-partners have threatened to expose photos of their ex online, and 60 percent of those went through with it.

Don’t Blame The Victim

It’s a common opinion that women should be “smart enough” not to share intimate photos or videos when it’s so easy to abuse that trust. This is a form of victim blaming and a part of the wider rape culture. While it’s always a good idea to trust your gut and never let someone pressure you into doing something you don’t want to do, exchanging or gifting photographs with a significant other can be a healthy part of the relationship and expressing one’s sexuality. The bottom line is try to be smart when you’re being vulnerable and calculate your risk and don’t point fingers at the victim.

Is it a crime?

Morally it seems obvious that revenge porn is harassment and a clear invasion of privacy, but questions of ownership, protection of the First Amendment, and other issues make it difficult to prosecute. In the US, unless the victim is underage, posting material without consent isn’t a federal crime. So far ten states have laws against the posting of private intimate materials with varying degrees of effectiveness and severity of punishment. Check out the status of revenge porn legislation in each state.

In states that have yet to create laws specifically targeting these crimes, all other options are more time consuming, costly and less consistently effective. This is why federal legislation banning revenge porn is so important.

Other countries are taking more serious steps to ban revenge porn. Israel was the first country to make posting erotic images without the model’s consent illegal. Recently a German court ruled that intimate photographs taking in a relationship should be deleted upon request, creating a new legal form of prevention.

However, if you are being threatened or are a current victim, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and seek justice.

Getting Help

If you took the image or video yourself, you can claim copyright and issue a Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notice. DMCA Defenders will, for a discounted rate, help you remove images uploaded without your consent.

Civil suits using Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Invasion of Privacy and other claims can also be effective.

The Women Against Revenge Porn, Without My Consent, and End Revenge Porn websites offer tips about how to get your photos removed, your rights as a victim, and seeking emotional support.

Jera Brown is a blogger and freelance writer. She is starting an MFA in creative writing at Columbia College Chicago this fall. Jera writes about the queer, poly and kinky identity, self-worth and her faith. She blogs at emotichew.com.

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