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The Dangers of Revenge Pornography

In recent years, the number of instances of explicit non-consensual content being published online has been growing at an alarming rate. As more people use the internet to do their jobs, manage their social lives, and try their luck at dating, the danger of cybercrime increases. Revenge pornography is a cybercrime mainly committed on social networks or similar platforms.

Unfortunately, many people have suffered from the consequences of revenge pornography, which poses several different kinds of threats to the victim, from psychological damage to emotional susceptibility to physical violence. And while the internet is a vast and loosely controlled space, there are a number of things you can do to protect yourself.

What is revenge porn?

Revenge porn is the distribution of sexually explicit photographs or videos of a person without their consent. The term describes a particular scenario in which sexual images are published online to harass and humiliate an ex-partner, however, it is also often misused to describe any sort of non-consensual pornography—explicit content that has been obtained by hacking or coercion and is used to do harm to the person in question or is simply distributed for profit. Pornography is also something of a misnomer as the victims don’t post these images of themselves voluntarily, nor do they participate in sex work.

Read more about rebuilding intimacy after abuse.


The number of revenge pornography cases surged by 22%, during the global lockdown, indicating a worrisome trend.

It comes as no surprise that cybercrime is on the rise because many people turned to the online world to maintain their social interactions during the lockdowns. Dating apps have reported increased activity during the pandemic; seeking sex and romance online creates opportunities for cybercrimes such as revenge porn.


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While anyone can become the victim of revenge pornography, the problem is much more common among teens and twenty-somethings. Young people are more easily deceived and more likely to fall victim to sexual harassment. Women are also more vulnerable than men.


In some cases, the victim has shared explicit images or videos with a friend or partner in private, but that confidence is betrayed when that person goes on to publish the images without the victim’s consent. Abusers often force their victims to share nude images through manipulation or blackmail and also hack devices where explicit photos are stored to steal them for distribution in order to harm their victims.

The Problem

Publishing explicit and non-consensual images is damaging and toxic to the core and can lead to long-term consequences for the victim. Unfortunately, cybercrimes are challenging to solve. Sexual abuse is still often downplayed, and revenge pornography has many other adverse effects.

It damages the victim’s morale

As long as our society shames women for their sexuality and blames the victims instead of the abusers, victims suffer many knock-on consequences and are often re-traumatized if their cases do go through the criminal justice system. Explicit non-consensual content is often shared to hurt and shame the victim. Photos or videos, shared in private then leaked online for everyone to see, harm the victims’ morale, damage their self-esteem, and can cause victims to harm themselves mentally and physically.

Effects on social and professional life

There are countless cases of explicit images of celebrities, politicians, athletes, and other famous people, mostly women, being published without their consent. These victims suffer humiliation at the time of publication but may also experience negative consequences for many years to come. They might lose their jobs, friends, family, and reputation simply because of a photo.

Today more people are standing up to abusers and advocating for the victims, but our society still tends to blame women for these incidents, and too often survivors of abuse feel responsible for what has been done to them and isolate themselves. Many develop depression, anxiety, social phobia, or some other physiological condition that damages their lives even more.

Other crimes

Cybercrimes can be as damaging as physical crimes, and often turn out to have harmful long-term consequences. Abusers who distribute explicit non-consensual images also often bully their victims, stalk, manipulate, or blackmail them, and may even attack them physically. Therefore, it’s crucial to pay heed to victims’ experiences and to react quickly for the best chance of minimizing damage.

Lack of legal protection

Although many countries are now passing stronger laws against cybercrimes, including revenge porn, it is still difficult to identify abusers and gather enough evidence to take legal action. Many victims still face backlash and condemnation, which keeps them from coming forward with their allegations. Even when they do ask for help and report their abusers, the police they turn to might not take them seriously or blame them for the actions of the abuser.

Revenge pornography destroys lives and harms victims on many levels but anyone who uses social media can do their part to raise awareness and protect themselves.


How to tackle the problem of revenge pornography

Raise awareness. Shame and victim-blaming are what allow abusers to hold power over their victims. If we stop blaming people for the crimes done to them, stop shaming them for their bodies and sexuality, the power of these crimes will diminish. While without a doubt revenge pornography is damaging to the victim but social acknowledgement that they are not at fault and it is the abuser who is to blame could significantly help.

Raising awareness and sharing these stories might also encourage more people to come forward and break the silence. Abuse can be very isolating, causing the victim to self-harm, or fall mentally or physically ill. Communication and openness are the path to healing.

Report abuse to the police. It can be challenging to come forward when someone abuses your vulnerability, and we can do only so much alone. Too many police officers remain ignorant of the most helpful ways of tackling these issues, and therefore it is important to report the crimes to raise awareness. Abusers often count on their victims feeling too ashamed to report the abuse, so showing that you’re not ashamed can intimidate the abuser and reduce their influence over you.

Ask for help. You aren’t alone, it might feel like that in the moment, but many people understand and can help you. Ask your friends, family, or counsellors for help. You can also seek out organizations that combat sexual violence online. They will help you report the crime and support you through what is bound to be an excruciating experience. Abusers want to separate you from your support network to make you feel weak, but you can fight back with the help of others.

Don’t negotiate with the abuser. Abusers might use your private photos to blackmail you. They might try to manipulate you by saying they will publish embarrassing photos of you if you don’t do what they ask. But understand that it is the abuser who is committing a crime. Save all text or email conversations, record phone calls, and bring this evidence to the police or someone else who can help. The threats may sound terrifying, but it’s important to understand that most abusers do this because they feel the law won’t be able to touch them. This mindset can be exploited.

What can you do to avoid becoming a victim of cybercrimes?

What crimes other people choose to commit is not something you can control, but there are steps you can take to avoid being taken advantage of.

Secure your devices. You can become the victim of revenge porn even without having shared explicit content with others. Malware, viruses, and other cyber perils can put your devices at risk of exposure or hacking.


The best way to protect yourself is to install the latest security software, avoid questionable websites, and refrain from downloading content from unauthorised sources and people you don’t know.

Some experts also recommend hiding your IP address or using a VPN service, especially when browsing unverified websites. You might also want to cover the camera on your computer with a piece of sticky tape when it’s not used to prevent possible privacy violations.

Don’t send explicit photographs and videos. The best way to avoid your photos being leaked is to keep them to yourself. Make sure you can trust the recipient before sharing private content of any kind.

Even after years of living together, some people reveal their true character and publish their partner’s sexual content without permission. It is not always clear whom you can trust. The best way to avoid it is not to share private content.

If you do share intimate photographs for some reason, remember you can ask the receiver to delete them at any time. You have the right to request them to delete the content in front of you.

Cyberspace can be dangerous, and we should not underestimate its potential impact on our lives. If your privacy has been violated, there are legal actions you can take to exact justice and support groups you can rely on to help you through the process. Let’s be smart and let’s be kind.

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https://revengepornhelpline.org.uk/
https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-54149682
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/405286/revenge-porn-factsheet.pdf
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/811450/Adult_Online_Harms_Report_2019.pdf
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