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Revenge Porn: When Domestic Violence Goes Viral

Posted on March 21, 2017

Illustration by Jocelyn Tsaih for SELF article


Laura’s House Legal Director, Adam Dodge, featured in SELF and participating in the discussion of ‘Revenge Porn’ and the role it plays in domestic violence cases. Below is an excerpt:


The agony of having your private photos made public.

The email looked like spam. It came from an anonymous address, and Ali*, 22, thought it surely meant nothing. But she clicked on it just to be sure. The email told her not to panic, but there were nude pictures of her on the internet. She frantically scrolled to see two links at the bottom of the email—one to a Tumblr page and one to a Flickr page. She clicked. Staring back at her on the sites: her own face, and the nude photos she’d sent her ex-boyfriend during their four-year relationship. The images she entrusted him to keep private were now uploaded publicly for more than 3 billion internet users to see. She panicked.

It takes four clicks on Facebook to upload a photo—less time than it might take someone to inhale and exhale. That's how quick and easy it is to share an explicit image of a person without his or her consent, maliciously robbing them of their privacy and turning their nude images into a form of internet pornography.

You've probably heard of revenge porn before, a term often used to refer to a type of online abuse known as nonconsensual pornography. Sometimes the perpetrators are strangers. Hackers made headlines in 2014 when they stole intimate images of actresses, including Jennifer Lawrence, and leaked them online. Often, the abusers are significant others, trusted individuals who use sensitive images as a way to harass past or current partners. Such was the case with Mischa Barton, whose ex-boyfriend allegedly filmed them having sex without her knowledge, via a hidden camera, and then tried to sell the video. Many women, like Ali, take and share personal photos with their partners, only to have those pictures used against them later as a means to intimidate, threaten, and assert control. Though it may not seem like it at first blush, revenge porn is an increasingly common form of domestic violence—one that can have a serious impact on a victim's mental health.





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