Episode 95: "What is revenge porn and why is it a big deal?"Support the show
On today’s episode, we’re answering a question from local teens about revenge porn.
This is Jessica Skultety, 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.
Today's question from local teens is: “Dear Ava, What is revenge porn and why is it a big deal?
Revenge porn is a form of sexual abuse, which can happen to both teens and adults. Revenge means “to get back at someone.” So this is when one person shares any photos or videos of someone else without their permission, where that person is naked, partially naked, or engaging in sexual acts.
It could be a friend, family member, dating partner, or ex who shares this with others or posts it online. It’s illegal and it’s never okay. And also the threat to do this is never okay, either. That can be a form of blackmail.
For this example, we’re going to use gender neutral names, because dating and sexual violence happen to people of all genders. Let’s say one partner, Alex, breaks up with their partner, Charlie. Alex finds out from Charlie’s friend that Charlie has now been sharing a video of them having sex, even though Charlie said they deleted the video months ago. This is just one example of revenge porn.
Alex might feel a lot of different emotions. They may feel ashamed that they made the video in the first place. But even if they gave consent or permission to make the video, in this situation, they did not give consent for the video to be public in any way.
And it is NOT Alex’s fault if their ex, Charlie, decides to share this video with friends or the internet. Consent has to be specific or given for every action. Plus, Charlie lied and said they had deleted the video. Charlie says everything is Alex’s fault since they shouldn’t have ended the relationship – but no one should be trapped in a relationship they don’t want to be in. Alex had every right to break up with Charlie, and it was Charlie’s choice to share the video, which is an act of violence against Alex.
All of this is manipulative and can have long lasting, harmful effects on Alex, and Charlie, too. This is why it’s important to talk about revenge porn. Some of these harmful effects can include: difficulty getting into college or a trade school, getting/keeping a job. Charlie’s action could have ruined any trust Alex may have for other romantic partners or relationships.
Often, when someone purposefully shares a picture or video like this, they share it on porn websites with all of the person’s information, age, town, school, etc. This could open Alex up to unwanted messages in addition to their photo or video being public for anyone in the world to access or save, at any time. The effect of that is difficult to imagine for anyone who hasn’t experienced it.
It’s like a loss of control, and Alex might also have other emotions like feel embarrassed, scared, overwhelmed, and more. Know that in this situation, Alex has several options, even if they feel like they’ve lost control because of Charlie’s actions.
If Charlie has posted this video on porn sites or publicly online, Alex can report them to have them taken down. Alex can also document when things happened and the date, so that they have a record of threats when they were made, and when Charlie went through with posting or sharing. This record can be helpful in court if Alex decides to press charges.
So, that being said, Alex could report this to the police, if they want to. There are lots of protections online for people experiencing sexual abuse, especially minors or those under 18. In New Jersey, it is illegal to have a photo or video on a device or share media of a minor who is naked, partially naked, or engaging in sexual acts. Even if this person isn’t a minor, revenge porn is still illegal and can be charged in a court of law.
Alex might also decide to talk to a trusted adult, whether in their family or not, for emotional support. They can call or text Safe+Sound Somerset helpline for supportive listening.
Revenge porn is never okay and we know how common it is. If this happens to a friend of yours, take it seriously and offer to listen and support them however you can. You can also contact our helpline for help with your specific situation.
To speak with an expert about dating 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.