The Sexting Nightmare: Non-Consensual Image Sharing (NCIS) a.k.a. Revenge Porn

banisinghvasir
@banisinghvasir
14 Jan 2020

Crime of passion

Two opposing ideas in the same phrase. Lovers can dive deep into their romance.

We explore a different realm that deals with rejection and betrayal. The dark side of sexting. When things go south, the dumped often resolves to “get back” at the dumper. By exposing some private and at times embarrassing details. What better way to do so than leaking your intimate moments with each other?

Some would be questioning if this truly is a criminal offence. To answer that, I want you to take note of
a) the extreme mental distress and trauma that it causes
b) how the victim has little to no support at that time.

This isn’t just about criminal justice. It is about the lack of basic moral support. Which we, as onlookers, fail to provide at that sensitive hour.

We break down the many facets of a relationship. Let us find out why we resort to this form of harassment.


Why we sext

It started with a kiss how did it end up like this?

Sexting comes naturally after a flirtatious conversation. It could begin with something as simple as NSFW chats and memes. (read: Not Safe For Work)

Soon, this extends to sexually implicit (and at times explicit) exchanges. These exchanges may be textual, telephonic, graphic (photo/video)

And this is what teenagers call “Sexting.”

Webwise highlights the key reasons for the popularity of this trend:

When sexual tension builds up

Sexting jokes and convo starters lay the foundation for a romantic relationship. It is a means to establish trust and mutual interest between partners. It could directly be attributed to the advent of social media and affordable internet services.

How peer pressure is harmful

Younger people may feel the need to behave or respond in a certain way based on societal expectations. The same way they normally feel regarding actions considered popular at their age. According to WebMD, “fear that you won't perform well in bed and satisfy your partner sexually,” and “poor body image, including concern over your weight” may be the primary causes for instances when sexual tension can cause anxiety. When he/she/they sext you, you can have mixed emotions about it. Due to lack of better judgement at a younger age, one can feel the pressure to act along without knowing the meaning and after-effects of it.


When things go wrong (as they sometimes will)

What to Do If Your Partner Is Trying to Convince You to Send Nudes?

If you or your friend have found yourself in this tough spot, you are probably on the lookout on how to say no when a guy/girl asks for a private picture. This is a stage, where you have probably recognised the discomfort you feel with said person, such that you think twice before sharing any private content with them. At this point, the red flags are blaring clearly. If you are able to detect the signs of an alarm early, you are more likely to be in favour of NOT getting intimate with the wrong person.

However, you could be a victim to unsolicited, accidentally produced sexting content. This can happen when you may not have realised that webcams on computers or other devices were in operation and may have gotten changed in view of those cameras. It is now, more than ever before, easier to create and distribute sexting content recklessly, without even thinking of the consequences. The other person may not have intended to distribute these images but, by legal definition, these personal images become sexts, were the images to be shared.

If you find yourself in a “my pictures were leaked” situation, first and foremost compose yourself. You have to remember that you have done nothing wrong. It is normal to undergo feelings of humiliation, disgust, fear and shame. However, these have all got to do with our social conditioning and nothing to do with your morality or your character.


What to do when someone threatens to blackmail you

“Should I send my boyfriend nude pictures because he keeps asking me?”

As you ask yourself this question, bear in mind that you have already realised that this person is trouble. It is a cause for concern if the persistence reaches a level where you feel obligated to share nude pictures so that your boyfriend doesn’t leave you. It starts with love and caress, moves on to desperation and ends with threats. These threats and blackmails may not be explicit in nature, but in fact, play on your weaknesses and emotions. Your partner knows you are afraid to lose them through non-compliance.

What you need to know is that any healthy relationship is based on consent and trust. If your partner is unable to recognise the discomfort you feel sexting them, then there is some serious reconsideration to do.

DO NOT feel like you owe an explanation to anybody for anything. Sexting, or not, both are equal choices. The issue is when you feel coerced into either of them. It is not wrong to sext. But it feels awful to sext the wrong person when that breach of trust occurs. Which is why it is important to exercise caution when forming new relationships.


Where sexual harassment occurs

What should I do if someone is threatening to share things I want to keep private (for example photos or videos)?

This falls clearly under the category of extortion, exploitation and harassment. There are no two ways about it. It has unfortunately been coined the term of “revenge porn” as if rejection were something to be avenged.

Revenge Porn is the sharing of private, sexual materials, either photos or videos of another person without their consent and with the purpose of causing embarrassment or distress. The images are sometimes accompanied by personal information about the victim, including their full name, address and links to their social media profiles. The offence applies both online and offline and to images which are shared electronically or in a more traditional way. So, it includes the uploading of images on the internet, sharing by text and e-mail, or showing someone a physical or electronic image.

The nonprofit Cyber Civil Rights Initiative conducts annual surveys to get a sense of the prevalence of – and experiences with – revenge porn victimization. In their most recent survey from 2015, out of the 1,606 respondents from the ages of 18 to 30,

  1. 61% (about 980 people) said they had taken nude photos or videos of themselves and shared them with someone else.

  2. 23% of respondents (361 people) had been victims of revenge porn.

  3. Among revenge porn victims, 93% reported significant emotional distress.

  4. 82% reported suffering significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

  5. Over half (51%) of victims indicated that they had even considered committing suicide.

  6. With regard to their occupation, 55% of respondents feared that their professional reputation would be tarnished because of revenge porn, while 39% said that the crime actually affected their professional life.

  7. 90% of revenge porn victims in the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative’s sample were women.

  8. 49% said they have been harassed or stalked online by users who saw their material.

It is concerning and alarming to view these statistics. While revenge porn in itself is not new, cybercrimes continue to remain a relatively “new” area of jurisdiction for countries worldwide.

Means of recourse are now available. But the question is, at what cost?

In the UK, since it was made a criminal offence in 2015, victims have chosen not to support charges in 2,813 of 7,806 incidents. Some alleged victims say it is because they are not granted anonymity, while others cite a lack of police support.

"Prosecutions are long, lengthy distressing process for most victims of any kind of crimes." — Catherine Knibbs, a cyber trauma researcher and psychotherapist

"In terms of sexual crimes - you're looking at the proposition you might be told it's your fault, you asked for it - lot of victim blaming, very difficult for victims to come to terms with."

The entire theme of revenge porn is to embarrass, defame and push the victim into further solitude. From a more realistic point of view, it is extremely difficult to actually seek help, due to the victim shaming that revenge pornography garners.

However, if you ever find yourself in such a situation, don’t be afraid to reach out and seek help.

You are not the reason this has happened. It is a crime to distribute private, confidential information. It can be challenging to stay strong, but when you know in your heart that you’ve done nothing wrong, it helps to gain back that self-confidence. If you’re lucky and have a great support system around, you are able to at least address your issues, and relieve some of your worries and stress.

Additionally, and most importantly, if you ever come across a victim, be sure to show your solidarity. Do not trivialise the issue, do not question their intentions, do not put the blame on them. A huge part of the problem is how we, as a society, deal with this. If we put in our best efforts to stand by the victims and give them strength and support when they need it most, it would do wonders for their self-esteem and their conscience. Because, believe it or not, they are made to feel responsible for it just because they thought that they could trust the perpetrator.

The Centre for Internet & Society has compiled the laws (continent and country-wise) that can be used to gain insights if you, or someone you know, find yourself in a similar situation.


Sexting and Mental Health

I Sent Pictures To A Boy I Liked And Shouldn't Have

Many survivors of NCIS experience shock and feel overwhelmed in the immediate aftermath of the event. In the longer term, victims often exhibit symptoms of depression, anxiety, abnormally high suicidality and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — effects that are also common among survivors of physical sexual assault.

"I feel like I was molested - like I was raped."

"I felt like it was all my fault. Even the police officer I told my story to, said, 'I guess you've learnt your lesson now then' and that shook me to my core.”

Having that trust violated can be crushing. “When we think about any form of victimization that has occurred, we often think about how choice is being taken away,” says Kim (senior clinical director of the anti-trafficking program, community programs, and hotlines at Safe Horizon, a nonprofit organization that provides services for survivors of sexual trauma)
Unwanted sexting could lead to mental health problems, research says.

This brings us to the question "When to sext someone, if at all?"

Sexting isn’t all bad and is neither the root cause for NCIS. In a research by Drouin, Coupe & Temple in 2017, those who described themselves as being in a committed relationship also reported more positive attitudes toward sexting behaviours than those who described themselves as not being in a committed relationship.

This finding gives some support to the notion that there are greater emotional costs and fewer emotional advantages to casual relationships, and also that this effect crosses over into online interaction.


What to do if you are a victim of revenge porn

ScoopWhoop: The Story Of Revenge Porn covers the experiences of two young women who were threatened with the release of their intimate photos and videos by their former partners. Both took two very different steps to tackle the threat.

It’s a good idea to relieve yourself of any worries. Talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling. If you are unsure of who you can trust in such a crucial hour, you can find online anonymous sharing platforms like Now&Me, where you could talk to others who may have also been victim to this. Whatever works for you best, try to do that and do not take any guilt or burden about the situation.

As laws safeguarding the interest of the victim are underway, it is imperative to stop blaming and shaming them. Sexual intimacy is part of most relationships and sexting is its online version. Recognise that their private pictures being leaked was definitely not their intention.

We, as a society and as individuals, are a huge part of the problem. We add fuel to the fire, contribute constructively to ensure that sexuality remains a taboo.

Patriarchy does not exist only in men. The force of patriarchy is the water that we all swim in and we're the fish.

There’s nothing to be ashamed of.

“What is it, it’s a naked image of you? Okay, you have a body under your clothes. Everybody does,” Attorney Lisa Bloom says.


Citations and Important Resources:

https://cyberbullying.org/revenge-porn-research-laws-help-victims
https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-44411754


Read More :

5 Ways Social Media Is Negatively Affecting Your Mental Health

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