• Social media is far more cunning than this: it is a psychopath who has detained many of those that we care about. (Getty)
The impact on victim’s lives can be extreme, with many reporting feeling sexually violated and have received unsolicited contact from strangers, who have seen their images, requesting or demanding sex.
By
Alana Schetzer

14 Sep 2018 - 3:31 PM  UPDATED 14 Sep 2018 - 4:15 PM

One of the most insidious crimes to develop from technological advancement is revenge porn – an act where a person typically publishes explicit photographs of their ex-partner without their consent, on the Internet, usually through social media.

By the sheer intention behind the act, revenge porn is marked by the perpetrator’s desire to humiliate and intimidate their victim, and damage their reputation and relationships.

“Image-based abuse can have devastating impacts on targets—they often feel betrayed, violated and powerless,” a spokeswoman for the Office of the Australian eSafety Commissioner tells SBS.  “Many victims experience long-term anxiety, fear and depression, with the constant fear that their compromising photos will be shown to friends, family, current partners or employers.”

By the sheer intention behind the act, revenge porn is marked by the perpetrator’s desire to humiliate and intimidate their victim, and damage their reputation and relationships.

The impact on victim’s lives can be extreme, with many reporting feeling sexually violated and have received unsolicited contact from strangers, who have seen their images, requesting or demanding sex.

Victims can be threatened with their intimate photographs being released as a form of blackmail or part of a cycle of domestic abuse. This is why revenge porn has been classified as a form of harassment, cyber-bullying, and a sexual crime.

A recent investigation by RMIT and Monash University discovered that one-in-five Australians has been a victim of revenge porn, with Indigenous, LGBTI and people with a disability even more likely to be targeted.

Dr Asher Flynn, from Monash University, added that there would be many people who were not even aware that explicit images had been posted of themselves online.

“Our survey only captured those victims who had become aware their images had been distributed, whereas some victims may never discover that their images have been taken and distributed, particularly if they are circulated on sites located on the dark web,” says Dr Flynn.

The picture of who is affected by ‘revenge porn’ is more complex than we first thought
One in two Indigenous Australians, one in two Australians with a disability, and one in three LGBT Australians reported having been a victim of revenge porn.

On screen and in real life: A modern social ill

Revenge porn has become so commonplace throughout the world that it’s even made its way into fictional stories and onto our screens, as the art of script writing drama series continues to imitate real life.

Episode two of the legal series, The Good Fight touches on the notion of revenge porn. Lawyer Maia Rindell (a character played by Rose Leslie) is confronted with a threat relating to a fake sex tape, which also involves her girlfriend. The motive for the act of revenge porn in this case includes the crimes that Maia’s father has committed. As with any quality drama series, the matter gets resolved to some degree before the closing credits. Meanwhile, in real life, dealing with incidents of revenge porn and online abuse might not be so clear-cut.

Off screen and in real life, statistics obtained from the eSafety Commissioner in Australia show how prevalent revenge porn actually is. The commissioner has already received 370 complaints, which has resulted in 128 images being removed from the Internet since October last year.

But even if something is removed from the Internet, it doesn't mean that it’s still not lurking somewhere on the web, which is what makes image-based abuse such an insidious violation; some people take screen-caps or make copies of the original image, and post it elsewhere. 

What can be done about it? 

Surely there is some legal action that victims can take, right? The problem is that since revenge porn first reared its ugly head in the late noughties, victims had little legal recourse, as technology has rapidly outpaced laws. This means that there was no legal way to force perpetrators to remove photographs from the web, leaving victims powerless.

Since revenge porn first reared its ugly head in the late noughties, victims had little legal recourse, as technology has rapidly outpaced laws.

But Australia is slowly fixing its laws, explicitly making revenge porn against the law.

The RMIT and Monash University report recommends the established of a dedicated helpline, the creation of a federal law making image-based abuse illegal across the country, and also called on social media platforms to strengthen their own rule and responses to victims.

Australia is slowly fixing its laws, explicitly making revenge porn against the law. Although it’s a national problem, laws governing revenge porn vary state-to-state.

In the meantime, victims can get in touch with the esafety Commissioner, which is responsible with accepting and dealing with complaints, and will soon launch an online portal to provide direct support and recommendations. Members of the public will be able to access to gain information on laws, e-safety tips, and recommendations on looking after your mental and physical safety.

The eSafety Commissioner recommends victims across Australia of image-based abuse take the following steps in order to get the images taken down off the Internet, and to seek further action if necessary.

  • Collect evidence, including taking screenshots and copy and URL
  • Check if the image has been posted in other places. You can do this by searching for your name online and do a reverse image search
  • Contact the social media platform or website administrator directly and report that the image was distributed without consent
  • Report it to the eSafety Commissioner and Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network
  • If you are in Victoria or South Australia, contact your local police
  • Microsoft and Google both offer options to remove revenge porn from appearing on their various search engine results and other services. 

For more information and advice on what you can do to fight back against revenge porn, visit these helpful sites:

Hunter Moore: The Revenge Pornographer airs on SBS VICELAND at 10:05pm Sunday 16 September 2018. The documentary will also then stream on SBS On Demand.

The picture of who is affected by ‘revenge porn’ is more complex than we first thought
One in two Indigenous Australians, one in two Australians with a disability, and one in three LGBT Australians reported having been a victim of revenge porn.