Revenge Porn Crisis – What Does It Mean For Marriages?

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The non-consensual sharing of explicit images, usually referred to as revenge porn, is a growing problem. In the UK, a law went into effect in April 2015 that specifically defined revenge porn; “the distribution of a private sexual image of someone without their consent and with the intent to cause distress”, as a criminal offence. As of September 2016, more than 200 people had been prosecuted under this law. The UK is not the only country to enact such specific protection. In New Zealand, the Harmful Digital Communications Act also became effective approximately 18 months ago and most of the prosecutions are related to instances of revenge porn.

Prosecution Only Helps So Much

These laws do seem to be having an effect, yet it’s still hard to estimate the damage victims suffer. A study conducted last year by the Data & Society Research Institute and Center for Innovative Public Health in the US found that about 4 percent of the population (10 million people) had experienced “either the threat or the actual posting” of revenge porn images. Prosecution can help to reduce future instances, but unfortunately it does little to help victims who still have to deal with subsequent reputational damage and other personal costs related to the incident. At ReputationDefender, we aid individuals with the process of image removal and reputation repair, but it may be too late to undo the harm inflicted on close personal relationships.

Revenge Porn Damages Relationships

Revenge porn is commonly seen as a bigger problem for women, but, as many celebrity cases illustrate, men can be effected too. Celebrities in the limelight may even be more likely to face marital turmoil as a result of damaging media shared online.

Just this year, several instances effecting male celebrities have been reported. An X-rated video of Amir Khan recently surfaced, allegedly made just after his marriage to Faryal Makhdoom in 2013. The clip shows Khan performing sexually intimate acts whilst skyping with an American girlfriend he’d known since 2010. The recent publication of the tape on a well-known US porn site came at a time when Khan was already experiencing difficulties within the media due to a highly public conflict between his wife and his family. The tape, which Makhdoom called “absolutely disgusting” has added to the tension between all parties and could well be the tipping point for his marriage.

Olympic diver, Tom Daley, has also announced he is dealing with a revenge porn case; an explicit video of him was recently leaked online. Daley is an acknowledged gay man in a long-term committed relationship. The video apparently dates from a period when the couple took some time off from their relationship while Daley was training for the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro. Daley has admitted he had a brief cybersex relationship with another man during that time and claims to have already shared the information with his partner.

It has been noted that revenge porn is becoming especially prevalent amongst LGBT communities. The recent US study found that instances of revenge porn rose to 15 percent amongst individuals who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual.

Modern Sexual Retaliation

Exposure of celebrities’ sex lives is not new, but recent cases are more severe and lead to increased long term reputational fallout because they include explicit images or video. In 2010, British football star, Wayne Rooney, was exposed when a paid mistress went public with her story. Jennifer Thompson allegedly met Rooney through an escort service, but the relationship became more personal. The two continued to see each other frequently for several months until Rooney broke it off just a month before his son was born. Thompson gave an interview with the Sunday Mirror and her testimony was corroborated by friends who claimed to have heard her speak of the incident. Her story was compelling, especially in the light of Rooney’s prior history, but it lacked the visual evidence that mark the most recent instances of revenge porn. At the time, a contrite Rooney was certain his marriage was over, but his wife and longtime high school sweetheart later forgave him and the couple went on to have two more children.

It’s easy to say that straying celebrities get what they deserve when they find their worst actions have been made public, yet injured spouses in all levels of society are hurt by revenge porn. Whether or not they were already aware of the incident, they are now forced to acknowledge it publically and deal with the ensuing commentary. Copies of the explicit material are difficult to delete and will likely be available on the internet for months or even years, causing devastating reputational issues for both parties.

How to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Revenge Porn

The majority of revenge porn images and videos were taken consensually and only posted publically after a relationship had dissolved. The only real way to eliminate this risk is to avoid creating explicit digital media of any kind. This includes nude pictures, explicit texts and phone calls or video sessions. All material on the internet has the ability to become public, even if it’s only shared privately with someone deemed trustworthy.

If this rule seems too limiting, consider reducing the damage by ensuring that your face remains out of the camera’s line of sight. The material may still be recognisable based on meta-data, but it will be much easier to refute if the identity of the person in the video or image remains questionable.

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Posted on 06 February 2017 by Christina Hamilton

Tagged privacy, revenge