“Well she shouldn’t have sent those pictures.”
As an advocate for the criminalization of revenge porn I so often hear those words. Unfortunately, most people don’t understand the vast consequences revenge porn can have on a person’s professional career, personal reputation, physical safety, and emotional well-being. For the sake of understanding, let’s follow a fictional story of a woman named Kate. [Producer’s note: you can also read this true story of a woman who was forced to change her name because of revenge porn, told in her own words.]
Kate has been in a long distance relationship for over a year with her boyfriend Dan. One night, she sends revealing photos intended for his eye only. Upon their messy breakup, Kate discovers Dan has a dark side when he posts her intimate pictures online along with her address, phone number, workplace, and social media links. The site describes her sexual preferences and encourages other men to solicit her for sex. Within hours, this link is up on hundreds of sites, and Kate begins to constantly receive vulgar texts, emails, and phone calls. She even has several men come to her door and solicit her for sex.
Kate goes to the website where the picture was originally posted and asks the site to “remove [her] name.” She pays five hundred dollars, without understanding that her picture has already been posted to hundreds of other sites. Permanently removing all of these pictures has become virtually impossible. She threatens to sue a few of the most-visited sites, and in response, the hosts “feature” her pictures on their homepage and encourage men to harass her until she drops the suit.
Regardless of these threats, she continues to fight and looks into hiring a lawyer to secure a copyright or file stalking charges.
Unfortunately, she finds that fighting with legal action not only costs thousands of dollars, it is a very slow, personally invasive, and lengthy process. She is a student and cannot afford the fines, so she reluctantly drops the suit.
Like so many other victims, Kate feels helpless, lost, and powerless. However, here’s the good news: there is hope for victims. Many non-profits have surfaced to fight the injustice and help victims like Kate secure resources in order to gain control over the invasive spiral.
These are the fighters of revenge porn and protectors of the vulnerable.
Without My Consent: This site helps educate the public on the consequences of revenge porn, why it should be illegal, and what to do as a victim. They provide emotional support, psychological services, and information on legal assistance. By bringing together victims, they give survivors a voice and help build a community of support in order to get through the terrible experience. For more information visit: http://www.withoutmyconsent.org/.
Cyber Civil Rights Initiative: This organization is dedicated to ensuring that the rights of individuals evolve appropriately with the internet age. Founded by Dr. Holly Jacobs, a former victim, the initiative seeks to criminalize revenge porn and empower victims in their quest for justice. They have created a network of professionals to research, understand, and develop policy changes to stop the online abuse. For more information visit: http://www.cybercivilrights.org/.
Women Against Revenge Porn: This site provides three important portals. The first explains, in detail, how to successfully copyright photos and get them off the internet. The second provides a portal for cyber civil rights lawyers and explains how victims can get in touch with legal professionals. Finally, the site provides a blog, where victims can share their story and find support through solidarity. For more information visit: http://www.womenagainstrevengeporn.com/.
If you have been a victim of revenge porn, don’t give up. There is life after online devastation and there are people on your side, fighting tirelessly to give you a voice. Know that you are a victim, remember that you are not alone, and take solace in the fact that change is coming.