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How to deal with revenge porn if you have been a victim

Revenge porn is a practice that is, unfortunately, on the rise and has witnessed rapid growth in recent years, along with the greater proliferation of social media and the immediacy of smartphone apps. Revenge porn may be defined as uploading or sharing intimate and explicit still or moving photography without the person’s consent, the material in question having originally been provided consensually for private use.

When an ex-partner uploads your intimate pictures or video it will come, most probably, as a huge shock. The shock consists of the sudden realisation that someone who you once shared extremely intimate moments with could be so vengeful. It will also be shocking to realise that you have lost control of the distribution of the images, who might see them and where they might end up.

Sexting (the act of exchanging sexually explicit electronic messages with another) can be another way of losing control of the distribution of your photos. It can feel like a really intimate thing to do, and is often done with the intention of strengthening a connection and communicating trust, but the nature of it creates a potentially devastating vulnerability to becoming a victim of ‘revenge porn’.

Sexting can be seen as a prequel to sexual foreplay (or foreplay before foreplay), but given its nature, this can also be undertaken with strangers, who might not have the same motives as you. You might suddenly change your mind about someone in the sexting exchanges who may then become sore with the rejection and seek to get revenge by posting your images online. Of course, your pictures and or video material may also be uploaded to websites without your knowledge by a total stranger. This could happen if your phone or computer has been hacked and your photo library stolen.

If the offender was an ex-partner, or someone you were sexting with, then the likelihood is that they will not be cooperative in having the images removed. In such cases requests should be made to the website(s) hosting the material. An organisation that can help with removal of images is the UK Safer Internet Centre (www.saferinternet.org.uk), although it can be more difficult if the website(s) is hosted outside the EU. That organisation can also advise on the other practical and legal steps open to you.

Dealing with the betrayal can be traumatic as you realise that someone you trusted has knowingly done something to harm you so deeply. This behaviour is bullying and the perpetrator seeks control by uploading the images without your knowledge. They will seek to protect themselves with denial, blame and aggression as you become the recipient of their abuse. Know that nothing could ever justify their initial violation of you, or their continued aggression, and it’s important to see their actions for what they are – a desperate attempt to gain power over you.

You may become unsettled with anxiety about what else they might try to do to harm your name and reputation. Your sense of safety may be shattered as a result of their actions and this might have implications on how you function in other parts of your life. A betrayal of this kind can mean that you question others as your trust in love and relationships becomes more vulnerable. You may also want to blame yourself for what has happened, but don’t. ‘Revenge porn’ is a violation at the deepest level, and it’s not your fault that somebody you trusted intimately has proven to be unworthy of that trust.

Even if the perpetrator is an ex-partner you may find that you are grieving the loss of blind trust. Grief is a common response when you find out that you have been deceived in this way. Your grieving process may well be multi layered as you may be grieving the loss of the relationship, or the relationship as it was known, and also grieving the loss of trust that had existed with the person.

It will be tempting to desire and seek revenge for the hurt inflicted as you may feel a deep sense of injustice and loss of power. Such angry feelings are normal and entirely appropriate. However, seeking and getting revenge will not help your situation. It may appear to offer a temporary release from the pain and hurt but could potentially make your situation more complicated. It is important to try and keep check of your emotions and to think straight. Your first priority will be to undertake the practical steps of getting the material removed. You can then address the task of mediating your intense feelings and strong emotions and to regain your sense of personal power.

Counselling and psychotherapy offers the opportunity to discuss your feelings and emotions and to come to terms with the deceit and betrayal. It will give you a chance to evaluate your boundaries and your own definition of safety, and help to build your capacity to trust again. The process will also offer you an opportunity to work on letting go of any anger. Staying angry would be conceding defeat to the perpetrator, and will stand in the way of you having strong, healthy relationships in the future.  Your life is far too precious and special to spend being consumed by negative energy, and tied emotionally to someone who never deserved you.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Written by Noel Bell MA, PG Dip Psych, UKCP

Noel Bell is a counsellor/psychotherapist based in London who has spent the past 20 years exploring and studying personal growth, recovery from addictions and inner transformation. Noel draws upon the most effective tools and techniques from the Psychodynamic, Cognitive Behavioural (CBT), Humanist, Existential and Transpersonal schools.… Read more

Written by Noel Bell MA, PG Dip Psych, UKCP

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