‘Revenge porn’ describes the action of one individual sharing another’s private or intimate photos or videos publicly without first obtaining their consent.

The term came into prominence in the UK around 2014/15. Activists such as Charlotte Laws started to lobby for appropriate ‘revenge porn’ laws to be put in place.

‘Revenge porn’ is outdated

While this advocacy started as recently as 5 years ago, the term ‘revenge porn’ has already become outdated. It implicitly suggests two things, both of which are false. Firstly, the word ‘revenge’ suggests that the target of the crime has done something wrong and is therefore deserving of some form of retaliation. Secondly, the word ‘porn’ has consent inherent within it. Pornography is, and should only be, created by consenting adults.

‘Revenge porn’ is a crime

Activists, campaigners and researchers in the field say the correct term should be ‘image-based sexual abuse’. We need an all-encompassing term that removes all blame from the target of the abuse and highlights the devastating, abusive nature of the crime.

The term ‘revenge porn’ first appeared in UK legislation in 2015. An amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 made it a crime to distribute a private sexual image of someone without their consent and with the intention of causing them distress.

The law is not fit for purpose

Unfortunately, the law as it stands misses the mark. Instead, we need to start using the term ‘image-based sexual abuse’. This would reframe the issue as a crime that does not blame the survivor.

The treatment of perpetrators needs to be updated as well. Currently, the law mandates that perpetrators who have been found guilty can be punished with up to two years in prison. But, under the same law, it’s difficult to prove the perpetrator is guilty without causing further distress to the survivor.

For one, survivors are currently not granted any anonymity. In their attempts to keep their private videos and images out of the spotlight, survivors currently have no choice but to consent to their case being made public. A simple change in the law granting survivors anonymity could be invaluable in encouraging them to come forward and seek justice.

What can I do if this happens to me?

If you’ve had your private photos or images shared without your consent, you might find it helpful to speak to the Revenge Porn Helpline. They are set up to support survivors, and can help to have photos or videos taken down from sites like Facebook.

It’s also possible to ask Google to remove images from search results. You might also want to contact the police or seek legal advice or counselling. You can specify whether you’d like to be seen by a male or female police officer, lawyer or counsellor, who can advise you on next steps.

Whatever you decide to do, know that the fault lies solely with the perpetrator. The crime has been committed by the individual who wilfully shared your images or videos without your consent.

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