Our revenge on Revenge Porn

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Ever thought that vajayjay photo you sent your boyfriend would then rake up thousands of hits across the web two months after making him your ex? Anisha didn’t either, but it did. 

Anisha, 22, ended her four-year relationship when she found out that she had been cheated on. A few months after finishing it, she received an email from a random account containing three links to sites with her photos on, with a warning from the anonymous emailer that it was her ex-boyfriend’s doing. Three sites quickly turned into 300.

“He was obsessed. I felt like someone had stabbed me repeatedly. I felt betrayed, hurt and embarrassed. My own friends started discovering these pictures and it made things very awkward for me,” said Anisha.

Being in a long distance, long term relationship, Anisha sent her photos as a way of keeping her relationship alive.

“I was never concerned about what could happen to my pictures because I trusted him. I didn’t feel a need to worry. We had known each other for ten years, and we had ended on good terms,” she said.

He was arrested; but one arrest wasn’t enough for her ex. He continued to pretend to be her, and even after a restraining order, he spoke to hundreds of men, describing in detail the sexual things he would do to them. Their horrid replies would filter through to Anisha’s linked social media accounts – a constant reminder that she couldn’t escape.

After three years of harassment, Anisha’s ex was sentenced to six months in jail and charged with a third degree felony of ‘invasion of privacy’. As an American living in New Jersey, Anisha found salvage in the End Revenge Porn campaign, where she now volunteers as a victim support worker.

“I learned that no matter how low someone tries to bring you, you cannot let them win. My ex’s goal was to see me fall and because of that I was able to stand up ten feet taller,” she said.

“I speak to victims every day and I hope that by sharing our horror stories, and by helping to pass laws in different states, that we can make people see what a serious topic this is. It can happen to anyone. I trusted my ex and thought I would marry him, but people change.”

As ever, America is leading the way. After the campaign formed in 2012, 17 states in the US criminalised revenge porn – Canada, Victoria in Australia, and Israel then followed.

Over a Skype call through to Miami, we spoke to the founder of End Revenge Porn – Holly Jacobs. Holly was also a victim, and after being turned away by police and seeking help at domestic violence centres, she found that she was educating them instead.

As Holly is currently pursuing civil charges against her perpetrator, she has been advised by her lawyer to not disclose her personal story, but still shares the story of her fight for justice:

“Once I started spreading the word and went public with my story, the campaign turned into a lighthouse that everyone was attracted to –we heard from victims all over the world, and then after that came the victim advocates, then after that came the legislators,” she said.

Yet the looming question hanging over us is why do we take these photos? Seen as taboo, they’re often slated as “dirty pics,” but they’re certainly not an uncommon phenomenon.

Both Anisha and Holly argue that there needs to more education about the dangers of taking the saucy pics. Holly said: “Advice on sending nudes is like having a safe sex conversation. You can’t tell people not to do it – it’s just not realistic and it puts them in a position of blame which isn’t at all true.

We’ve also helped a lot of victims who never knew that the photos were taken – either through hidden cameras in pens or in teddy bears and we’ve also helped victims whose faces have been Photoshopped onto a nude body, which all do the same amount of damage.”

Holly pointed out that it is essential to educate men to respect women: “It shouldn’t just be women fighting against misogyny. Men should be aware of it and fighting against it as well.”

A few weeks ago, Holly met with a group of psychologists and tech experts to talk about teen sexting. She said: “All psychologists in the room said how it’s not bad behavior and that it’s not out of the ordinary for teens to be sending this material to each other.

“At that time in their lives they’re developing, they’re experimenting, they’re learning about their sexuality. If you throw technology in there which teens have grown up with, it’s only natural that that will play a part in it.

“What is wrong is when somebody takes that and takes it without consent. That’s when it becomes a bad thing.”

The End Revenge Porn’s aim is to build a one stop shop for victim support and legislative education, yet they’re still building their volunteer base to be able to track how effective the laws are, and how many cases are actually successful in using the law against their perpetrators.

Just because we’re on the other side of the world, doesn’t mean we can’t use the End Revenge Porn services. But as of April this year, revenge porn was made a criminal offence in England and Wales, and offenders can now face up to two years in prison.

 

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Warning signs of a potential revenge porn- poster

After learning from Holly’s own experience, and after talking to countless victims through End Revenge Porn, there are three red flags she suggests you should look out for:

If your partner is pressuring you to take the photos in the first place. This doesn’t mean they will ultimately post the photos, but it means they don’t respect your boundaries.

If there is a push for your face to be in the photos, you should really wonder, why?
A controlling nature. If he/she wants control over your technology such as your passwords to your email, social media accounts, and your phone, and whether they get upset if you don’t respond immediately to their texts for example. This person could potentially be abusive in some way whether it is physical, emotional, or be a poster.

Anisha said: “Looking back on my experience, I wish someone had told me not to put my face in my nude photos – I’d say to not include your face or anything that can distinguish you, such as tattoos or scars.”

Find help at: endrevengeporn.org       @EndRevengePorn

www.revengepornhelpline.org.uk       0845 6000 459