Getting Revenge on Revenge Porn

When footage of Canadian women, Alexis Frulling, engaging in a threesome went viral, she didn’t let it get her down. Instead, she took to the Internet again to post a video talking about said threesome. Women who have been subjected to Internet trolls and photos or videos uploaded without their consent can be made to feel ashamed and want to hide away from the online world. However, a recent string of incidents has seen some bold and brave women fight back against online haters, and speak up about the issue known as ‘revenge porn’.

Revenge Porn is when explicit photos are uploaded online without the consent of the person photographed. The world has seen a rise in this issue, and with it, online blogs, websites, and chat rooms have emerged to encourage the sharing of these photos. With the advance of technology and smartphones, sharing has becoming part of our culture. The law hasn’t been able to advance at the same rapid speed that revenge porn has become an issue. However, countries are frantically trying to pass laws to incriminate anyone involved in creating websites that expose women without their consent.

In July 2013 Kevin Bollaert started YouGotPosted.com, a website created for men to seek ‘revenge’ and post images of ex-lovers. The American based site contained images of women from all over the world without their knowledge. Bollaert would receive hundreds of messages a day from women, sometimes underage, begging him to remove the images of them. This led him to start ChangeMyReputation.com, a site that would ask for payment for the removal of photos, making him around $30,000. To the girl’s horror, the images would often re-appear, and the process would go around in cycles. Bollaert was found guilty of six counts of extortion and 21 counts of identity theft and received an 18-year prison sentence for the site. Some hopefuls thought it might help squash the culture of revenge porn.

However, in just August this year, another website was created. This one encouraged people to upload images of women and ask for photos of them naked. Jenni Russell was notified by a complete stranger that her Facebook photo had been shared with the caption ‘she’s from Adelaide, any wins?’ ‘Wins’ refers to naked photos of her that someone could share online. The sick and twisted site shocked her, but she was thankful there were no photos of her shared. As she scrolled through the site she found images of underage girls and went straight to the police. However, they simply told her to report it online and ask the site to be taken down, a process she said is extremely difficult and unhelpful.

Instead of shying away from the issue, she has spoken out about how it feels to be exposed online without consent; she wants to be a voice for women who might be too ashamed or embarrassed to speak out. ‘I had an overwhelming emotion of wanting to help and protect the women and girls of Australia as it is our right’, she said. Speaking with news programs and doing as many interviews as she can, Russell is hopeful that she can be the voice for women who are too scared to speak up.

She believes more needs to be done to punish the people using the site, as well as the people who created it. ‘It’ll be a very difficult task to try and prevent these sites from re-appearing but tracking I.P addresses and charging should help prevent it being created and/or up and running for a period of time’, she suggests.

When asked about how she felt about sharing photos of yourself with others, she said she was ashamed to say be careful who you trust. ‘You must be very careful of who you send them too, not everyone is who you think they are’, she said. However, she said she felt extremely supported by her male friends. ‘They told me that they couldn’t believe some males do this’.

When this type of thing happens to girls, many feel publicly humiliated and embarrassed to talk about it. Russell and so many others like her have changed that, speaking out, creating convocation around why revenge porn is a huge problem. Perhaps it’s women like these that will help end this culture, not only of revenge porn but the taboo around speaking about it. 

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