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New Helpline for Revenge Porn Victims

Imagine the photo you sent to that guy you were dating for a few months was suddenly online. You only found out because one of your mates screenshot it and sent it to you. You check, and there you are, body full exposed, face for the whole world to see. Underneath the photo is the caption “f**king slut.” Within 24 hours, all of your friends and classmates have seen the photo, and then you realise your sister has seen it too. Next week, your boss will be acting differently with you, and suddenly you’re being let go and find yourself jobless. You get threats, degrading comments and the whole world can see something that was only meant for his eyes.  Nobody looks at you in the same way anymore. You thought he could be trusted; you had ended on compatible terms. What do you do now?

Revenge porn is something that the majority of people have heard about, but until recently, very little has been done to support victims of this modern form of abuse. The creation of the internet and social media has impacted human society in so many positive ways, but it has also caused a horrific tidal wave of victimization and exploitation.  From hacking celebrity’s photos, such as Jennifer Lawrence, to an ex-partner posting an old sex tape that was once made in the height of intimacy, revenge porn seriously damages the lives of it victims.

(Photo credit: www.time2talk.org.uk

Revenge porn can be posted anywhere on the internet. Sometimes images are posted on social media or blogs, dating sites, porn sites or websites which have been deliberately set up to host this content. Pretty much any site which hosts photos or video can contain it, and often the images are published with the victim’s name and address to maximize the devastating effects.

In October 2014, the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling agreed an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill. “It shall be an offence for a person to publish a private sexual image of another identifiable person without their consent where this disclosure causes distress to the person who is the subject of the image.” There are also several other criminal acts which this behaviour may fall under, the Malicious Communications Act, and the Stalking and Harassment Act could be utilised, both of which have a possible prison sentence. For the Harassment element to apply the behaviour needs to be a repeated act, for example replicating the images on numerous sites, or reposting over a period of time.

The government defines revenge porn as “the sharing of private, sexual materials, either photos or videos, of another person without their consent and with the purpose of causing embarrassment or distress. The images are sometimes accompanied by personal information about the subject, including their full name, address and links to their social media profiles.”

In terms of reporting revenge porn to the police, it is advised to be as prepared as possible due to this being a  fairly new offence. Evidence is essential, so keep all screenshots of any posts, especially any of a threatening nature, and those sent privately. Revenge Porn Helpline state that “Ensure you include time and dates of any offensive messages. Any harassment, online abuse, extortion, or threat to post your intimate images is against the law, so you are in your right to report it to the police.”

The aftermath of revenge porn can cause serious mental health problems due to shame, prejudice and devastating effects on life and self-esteem.  Samantha Bates, in her thesis “Stripped: An Analysis of Revenge Porn Victim’s Lives After Victimization,” describes how the practice has been described as a form of psychological abuse and domestic violence, because the effects are very similar to those of victims who have been physically abused or psychologically mistreated.

And whilst it can be very hard to take down an image or video clip off the internet, and minimize the ripple effect it has on the victim’s life, revenge porn is finally being acknowledged as a serious issue, and professional and legal help is being provided for people who have been subjected to it.

(Photo credit: www.adweek.com

In an attempt to tackle revenge porn, a new law was introduced in England & Wales as part of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, with the slogan “Beware b4 you share” being their catchphrase warning. The result of this Bill is that revenge porn is now a crime, and if you have been a victim of the practice you will be supported by the legal system that will help care for you through the difficult time, without judgement. I emphasis without judgement, because this is often what holds people back from seeking help. Having already experienced embarrassment and shame at having intimate information shared without consent, the prospect of exposing the trauma with a stranger can seem daunting. But organisations, like Revenge Porn Helpline, are professionally trained to deal with these situations and will offer support and guidance in a non-judgemental, and entirely on your terms, basis.

On their website, they outline that anyone can “Call us for free” in order to have access to confidential advice and support. Whilst the organisation cannot guarantee removal of all images online, they explain how “our exceptional partnerships with internet industry partners allows us to minimise the reach, and some of the harm caused by revenge porn.”

“We understand how difficult it can be to talk about this issue, and sometimes it takes our clients a few attempts to pluck up the courage to speak to us directly or share their identity. If you would like to start a conversation with us, without sharing your personal information (at least to start with) you can use our anonymous tool  Whisper. Once we start working with you we will need your details in order to seek resolution, however we will work with you at a pace you feel comfortable with.”

Access to Revenge Porn Helpline’s handbook, full of questions and answers and all the information and contact details you would need in a revenge porn situation, can be found here.

So remember, if you are a victim, you can now receive legal and emotional support, so don’t back down! 

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/405286/revenge-porn-factsheet.pdf

http://www.revengepornhelpline.org.uk/

Holly began as the features editor for Her Campus Bristol and then progressed on to managing director/campus correspondent in 2016. A third year English student, she has a passion for reading, nature and writing.
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