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Lindsay (not her real name) is a beautiful Oakland County twenty-something, working to make it in the modeling world. A 2014 photo shoot between herself and an aspiring photographer, where she had several nude photographs taken, were destined to remain private. While a few photos were posted of her au natural, the photographer and herself were the only two people on the planet whose eyes were destined to see the most risqué pictures.
So she had hoped and thought.
Sometime later in 2014, she learned an anonymous email account in her name was created. Impersonating Lindsay, someone sent an email to the photographer informing him she had lost the photos, and asking him to email them to her for her modeling portfolio.
Soon, the private photos began appearing online on revenge porn websites. Revenge porn websites are where sexually explicit images or videos made usually by an individual or a partner in an intimate relationship are used by the partner to blackmail, humiliate, intimidate or exploit the individual for breaking up with them, or to control them. They are posted on a website, often with sufficient information to identify the individual, with names, home addresses, workplaces, and links to social media profiles. The images can expose victims of revenge porn to workplace discrimination, cyberstalking, or even physical attacks. It is also termed cyber rape, and is considered a form of sexual abuse.
Victims are harassed, traumatized, and threatened. Some victims have been so tormented they have had to change their names.
"It's adult cyberbullying," asserted Jody Westby, CEO of Global Cyber Risk LLC in Washington DC. "We think of cyberbullying for kids, but it's not just to children. Revenge porn is another form. It really is bullying against another human being as an adult. The best way to frame it is as cyber revenge and cyberbullying."
Amna Osman, president and CEO of Haven, an Oakland County non-profit organization for victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence, said they are increasingly seeing victims of revenge porn coming to Haven for counseling help and assistance to combat the existence of the involuntary pornography on the websites, including mainstream social media sites.
"We have seen clients who have willingly shared intimate photos and videos with their partners, only to have the partner use it as a weapon after the relationship ended," Osman said. "There are so many outlets for this abusive tactic – Facebook, Snapchat, etc., or even just showing pictures on your phone to others. It is a newer tactic of power and control, and we will probably see more survivors experiencing this as social media continues to grow and expand."...continued on page 2