Revenge. Pornography. Two ugly words on their own, but when put together, revenge pornography can cause devastating personal trauma, emotional pain, even depression and suicide. Revenge pornography can ruin careers, relationships, families, communities, and entire lives.
Defined, revenge porn is the result of a relationship gone bad. When things are going great and partners are having fun taking pictures or videos, no one suspects that those images could be used for anything more than private pleasure, flirty fun or a memento of a great hook-up. Then suddenly, images show up online without the consent of the person in the photo. The poster’s intentions are usually to harm, humiliate and cause emotional distress to their ex-partner as friends, family and colleagues see them at their most vulnerable, naked or in a sexually compromising situation. With easy access to cell phone cameras, pictures can be taken without anyone even knowing.
Current legal recourse in the U.K., thanks to a new law, states that posting/sharing any image without the consent of the subject is a criminal offence punishable by up to two years in jail. Don’t get me wrong… this is a great start. However, it doesn’t do enough as yet. It doesn’t get the pictures taken down. The hosting site can keep the posts up and unless the photos were copyrighted the victim continues to suffer while the hosting website rakes in the profits. The victims don’t get justice or closure.
A civil law has been proposed to force sites to take down the photos with or without copyright. Victims could then pursue sites for damages in significant amounts. Hopefully this would deter sites from posting sexual content without verifying consent. Consent should also be able to be withdrawn if the subject changes their mind and decides not to have the images posted anymore.
The Clean Lines Festival which took place in early August 2015 provided a platform for open authentic conversations about sexual assault, the meaning of consent, and revenge porn. The performers, panelists and comedians joined to provide a safe environment where victims could share their vulnerability and pain. The use of comedy in addressing assault was an effective tool to open the way for collective healing. Yes, survivors and victims can make change happen, but don’t wait for them to do it. Get involved before more people become victims.
To avoid getting into a revenge porn situation, be aware that revenge porn is out there, and it can happen to anyone. When you are having fun, at a party, at a bar or in a bedroom, be professional, stay alert and stay safe. Just like watching your drink at the bar to ensure no one drugs it, you need to be alert for photos. Be wise in your own use of alcohol, as it lowers your awareness of the potential for revenge porn. If pictures are taken, have them copyrighted. Remember that even the most trustworthy friend could be tempted to post your intimate photos.
Should you find your private images online, report the poster immediately for criminal charges. Though there is no civil law in effect at present, become part of getting this law enacted. No one is immune. Workplace colleagues, neighbours, men and women, and particularly teens and pre-teens need to be made aware of the possibility of this happening. Parents, talk to your kids.
Young people are still in the process of developing maturity in the frontal lobe of the brain where executive functions take place. It means that they are not able to make solid correct judgment calls before the age of twenty-five. That doesn’t mean they will only make bad judgments, just that they are more likely to make poor decisions during this time. It is a time between when they habitually listen to and respect elders, and when they are adult enough to take responsibility for serious choices on their own. As a result of this as yet under-developed brain skill, we see a lot of revenge porn in this age group. Their technological proficiency makes it all the easier to post it or to be victimized by it. Posters can go to jail, and victims suffer for a lifetime. It is worth seeing their eyes roll and listening to the inevitable sighs in order to get the information across to your young people.