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Revenge Porn as an Abuse Tactic

Woman holding cell phone

When we talk about the different tactics abusers use to inflict power, control and pain on their partners within intimate relationships, we often focus on verbal, physical or financial abuse. But our connected, digital world has produced a new kind of abuse that many women experience but often feel shame and embarrassment around: revenge porn.

Revenge porn is the sharing of private, sexual photos or videos of another person without their consent with the intended purpose of causing stress or embarrassment. More often than not, the photos or videos being shared were originally sent to a partner with consent and the assumption of privacy and trust. In our culture, these types of photos are commonplace. 88 percent of U.S. adults have texted a sexual photo (often referred to as a “sext”) to a partner, but the threat of revenge porn is becoming more frequent: 1 in 25 Americans will be threatened with or experience revenge porn. Women are twice as likely to be threatened than men.

The issue is not the photos. Women and men should feel safe to express their sexuality in a loving and trusting environment. As we all begin to live our lives more online, we should be able to expect that our partners will not publicly share private information when a relationship has ended or one partner is upset. Abusers are capitalizing on the digital age by taking advantage of intimate moments and private information and using them to control or intimidate their partners.

Fortunately, many states recognize this form of abuse and have begun crafting legislation to protect survivors of revenge porn. 38 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws prohibiting the distribution or production of nonconsensual pornography (revenge porn). Acknowledging revenge porn for the form of abuse that it is will help end the silence and shame survivors often feel when their images are spread online.

Victims of revenge porn often experience depression, anxiety, PTSD, shame and guilt. They fear loss of employment and often experience anxiety around facing their friends and families. Just like any other form of abuse, revenge porn is not a victim’s fault. It’s a tactic strategically used by an abuser to coerce or control. If you or someone you know has experienced revenge porn Without My Consent is a helpful resource. You are not alone.

Written by Sarah Stubblefield, director of communications and operations for the Conference on Crimes Against Women