Episode 156: "What if my partner is sharing private photos of me without my permission?"Support the show
On today’s episode, we’re answering a question from local teens about partners sharing private photos without permission.
My name is Jessica Skultety. I’m an Outreach and Prevention Manager at Safe+Sound Somerset. We are Somerset County, New Jersey's lead domestic and sexual violence response organization, providing services at no charge to survivors for over 40 years.
Jessica: So, today's question from local teens is: “Dear Ava, what if my partner is sharing private photos of me without my permission?”
And today we’re joined again by Safe+Sound Somerset volunteer Ella Blank, who goes to the University of Maryland. Hi Ella, thanks for being here today!
Ella: Hi everyone! So, if your partner is sharing photos or videos of you without your permission, even after you’ve said no, that is not okay, ever, no matter what age you are, period. If it’s media of you naked or partially naked, or its suggestive or sexual at all, this is still a kind of sexual violence. And it is not your fault. Sharing private photos of your partner can be considered nonconsensual pornography and can have legal repercussions, which we will talk about in a few minutes.
J: Yes. Just because someone is your partner or ex-partner does not mean they have the right to exploit your privacy. It doesn’t matter if these photos are ones that you decided to share, or if the photos were taken by your partner: sharing them is a violation of your personal privacy.
Sometimes we hear partners or ex-partners share media to get back at someone, which is called “revenge porn.” Or, they’ll use this as a threat to get something in exchange, which is blackmail. For example, from teens, we’ve talked about this in other episodes, but we’ll hear something like, “If you leave me, I’ll share those photos of you with everyone” or “I’ll share them with your parents” or something like that. Remember, you can leave a relationship for any reason if you want to, and blackmail like this is never okay.
E: Right. There’s a sandwich analogy that I like to use to talk about this topic. If I am eating a sandwich for lunch and I say that you can have a bite of it, are you going to immediately offer it to your friend? No, because it’s my sandwich that I am sharing with YOU. Not you and your friend.
J: Yeah, no, definitely, that’s a good way to think about private photos and videos. Um, one time a young person asked us in a presentation, “Why is that a big deal, though? Everyone shares these pictures with their friends.” I would say, does everyone really do it? You know, we see this a lot in TV shows and movies now. Even though this is behavior that media has normalized, it doesn’t mean it’s normal or that it’s okay for everyone, or that everyone does it. Plus, it can lead to a huge loss to trust and other mental health effects on the person experiencing this.
E: Yeah. We should talk about what you can do if this happens to you. You can reach out and talk to someone, as hard as that might be. This could be a trusted adult, like a family member, or a friend, teacher, coach, counselor, or principal. Honestly, you can talk to anyone that you feel like you trust. You can report the photo or video if it’s being shared on websites, and you can also report to law enforcement. You can also contact Safe+Sound via call or text for emotional support.
J: Absolutely. And remember, when if you do these things, or whether or not you do them, it’s NEVER your fault if someone chooses to share your photo or video without permission. We also recommend avoiding taking these photos and videos at all. Because even if you can trust your partner now, can you trust them with your photo in a year? Can you trust them in 5 years? In 20 years? We know this is hard to think about, but it’s important because once a photo or video is out there, whether it’s on your phone or your partner’s or someone else’s, anyone can potentially access it and you have no control over what happens to it.
E: Very true. And it’s important to note that every state has different laws on this topic, but the fact that there are laws emphasizes that sharing sexually explicit photos or videos without permission is never okay. In New Jersey, anyone who has a naked or sexually explicit photo or video of a minor (which is under 18) on their phone or computer, could face child pornography charges. This includes the person who took the photo, anyone who shared it, and even two consenting partners who agreed to share photos with each other. As an adult, someone can be charged with harassment if they keep asking for these photos and videos.
J: Yeah. Sharing private photos without your permission is a big violation of trust and it could be against the law. If you choose to share a very private aspect of your life with your partner and they’re not respecting your privacy or you feel as if you cannot trust them, you may want to re-evaluate your relationship. Thank you again so much for being here, Ella!
E: Of course, thank you for having me!
To speak with an expert about relationship or sexual violence, call or text the Safe+Sound Somerset 24/7 confidential helpline at 866-685-1122 for supportive listening, information, and safety planning.
Want to “Ask Ava” a question? Visit our website at www.safe-sound.org/ask-ava. Thank you for listening today. Join us next time here on Ask Ava.