How to stamp out Revenge Porn

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Emma can remember vividly the night she and Ben shot the video. She was 25; he was 28. They had been dating for a few months and were a bit tipsy when they went back to her place after a few drinks in the village pub.

“We were in a silly mood and started speaking about whether either of us watched porn,” Emma recalls. “He asked me if I’d ever filmed anything in the bedroom. I said: ‘No, but with someone I trusted it might be fun’.” They used his cameraphone.

Emma, a teacher, thought little more about it — but then she and Ben, who worked as a mechanic in a bike shop, broke up. One evening almost a year later, while her five-year-old daughter was sleeping upstairs, she received an email from an unknown sender.

The message read simply: “Is this You?”. Below it was a link to a website. She hesitated, then clicked on it.

The link took her to a pornographic site, where Emma found a video whose title was her name and full address. To her horror, the shaky footage showed her performing the sex act they had filmed on Ben’s phone.

“My heart sank,” she says. Panicking, she began Googling her name — only to find the video on porn site after porn site, each time accompanied by her contact details.

“I was hysterical. I was pacing and shaking. I rang my best friend hardly able to speak I was so upset. What kind of person would do that to someone?”

“I hadn’t even heard of revenge porn until about two years ago,” says James McGibney, who runs BullyVille, a Las Vegas-based site that helps the victims of various forms of bullying, “Now he receives more than 100 requests for help a week from victims of revenge porn around the world — including Britain. “Emails from desperate mothers and fathers saying ‘My daughter’s picture is all over the internet. She’s contemplating suicide. We need help.’ It’s a huge problem.”

“Essentially there is no specific piece of the law designed to help women in this position,” says Athalie Matthews, a lawyer who specialises in media and information at Bindmans.

“We have to work with a medley of laws that we can use to try and get this material down, or make the perpetrators take it down. The problem is once these things get online it can be very hard to get rid of every trace of them. Prevention is better than cure.”

Yet prosecution is possible under a number of different laws (see panel).

Last July, Tulisa Constostavlos, the singer and former X Factor judge, won a victory in the High Court over Justin Edwards, who had been her boyfriend for several years when she was in her teens. He posted a video online of her performing a sex act.

Constostavlos successfully filed a non-disclosure order prohibiting the publication of this or any other film of her engaged in a sexual act — but it was too late: the film had already been widely seen.

There have been other, lowerprofile cases. In October 2011, Shane Webber, 23, from Nottingham, was sentenced to four months in jail and given a five-year restraining order after he posted online sexually explicit images of his ex-girlfriend Ruth Jeffery.

Webber emailed the pictures to Jeffery’s friends and family over the course of a year using Facebook, MySpace, Tumblr and Google Picasa. In Southampton magistrates’ court, a district judge, Anthony Callaway, called the case a “gross violation of Miss Jeffery’s privacy”.

In April, James Aldous, 22, was given an 18-week suspended prison sentence after admitting a charge of harassment. He stole topless pictures of his ex-girlfriend Cassie Fearnley from her laptop and posted them online. Aldous, who had lived with Fearnley and has a two-year-old daughter with her, said he had wanted to get back at her for finding a new partner after they split up.

In some cases, victims are taking matters into their own hands. When Emma went to the police to complain, they said all they could do was ask Ben to remove the images. So she emailed the websites, telling them the video had been posted without her consent — and, lying, told them she had been underage when the photos were taken. “I was desperate, but it worked,” she says.

The battle against revenge porn has been taken up by other women — even those who have not themselves been a victim of it.

Megan, who, like Emma, asked for her surname not to be printed in this article, became aware of the phenomenon when she saw a link from Facebook to a website on which a young man she knew had posted a sexually explicit video of his ex-girlfriend. “It had 40,000 likes,” she says. Infuriated, she acted on instinct. First, she began emailing the women in the videos (via their Facebook profiles), warning them the videos had been posted and advising them to notify the police. Then she found the profiles on Facebook of men who had uploaded them and emailed the women on their “friends” lists — sisters, girlfriends and mothers — telling them what the men had done.

“I wanted to make these men accountable for their actions. It’s such a violation of trust,” says Megan. “Some of these girls were as young as 15. They could be my sister, my mother, my friends. It could happen to any woman who has ever taken a naked photo.

Read the full article here: http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/uk_news/Society/article1280879.ece#commentsStart

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