Revenge porn leaves York student feeling helpless

Student petitions for change in revenge porn legislation

A York student has fallen victim to revenge porn.

‘Alex’, a pseudonym given by the student, told Nouse that following their breakup her boyfriend posted 21 naked photos of her on Facebook. “Because I was tagged in all the photos they appeared everywhere, over my wall and all my friends’ news feeds. I felt useless but tried to keep my head up and make a joke out of the situation, I think my sense of humour has saved me really.

“My closest friends have been beyond amazing but it has affected not only my family and friends but my confidence and trust in future relationships. It’s really up and down. I’ve considered changing my name and dropping out completely. I just can’t focus on my work, I’m having to switch to a part time course… and bury my name”.

Alex was able to act quickly and remove all the tags and report the photos which were taken down later that same day. At this point Alex described how she “thought it was over”. However the photos were then uploaded to the revenge porn website www.myex.com.

The site, whose motto reads “get revenge”, features hundreds of intimate pictures and videos of both men and women. When uploading a photo the user is encouraged to include spiteful and damming comments. Those pictured on the site are often described in a derogatory manner such as ‘easy’ and ‘whores’. Alex’s description denounced her as a ‘slut’ and a ‘bitch’ who had cheated on her boyfriend. She described how this had made her feel ashamed, as if “through being associated with these actions I felt like a bad person”.  

In total her pictures received around 24 comments, most of a derogatory and sexual nature, all of which have now been removed. Heather Robertson, a friend of Alex’s, notes how at the beginning these comments were “absolutely disgusting, at the minute it looks tame compared to what it was”.  The pictures were also posted to five other websites, including porn websites. Moving from site to site the pictures amassed 30,000 views in just two days.  

Alex also described how she received threats, saying “I was hunted down [as] people shared my Facebook link and tracked my [York] sports timetable, they knew where I was all the time. It included all of my personal information, where I’m from, where I go on holidays, where I worked, my degree, my hobbies, absolutely everything they could think of.” She recalled a match in Sheffield which she believed people followed her to, making her feel self conscious and vulnerable.

The photos were also taken from the revenge porn website and made into a calendar, combined with pictures from Alex’s graduation and links to her Facebook account. Quotes were copied from Alex’s University Sports Club’s page, taking them out of context and posting them alongside the pictures.

Throughout her experience Alex described the overall support she received as “useless”. She explained how she was fobbed off by people who told her to “get on with it…there was no real advice on how to take down the images or stop people from stalking me.”

Alex also deemed North Yorkshire Police inadequate in their handling of the case. Feeling that the advice and support she had received was poor, Alex cancelled her sexual harassment claim, fearing her ex’s reaction.

It is almost impossible to prove who uploads the photos to websites such as myex.com, as there is no record of IP address, email or contact details held for those who use the site.

Once uploaded, pictures are then easily circulated. In addition copyright laws mean if the pictures were taken by the ex partner, they ‘own’ the pictures. Websites currently have no legal incentive to remove the pictures unless they relate to child pornography. This means that many try and make a profit out of the system, charging around $500 to remove the pictures which then may or may not be removed.

A petition has been started by Heather Robertson, a law student at the University. She explained that the mistreatment of victims was often blamed on their “naivety”. Heather started the change.org petition, entitled Ban Revenge Porn UK, after struggling to get the pictures removed from the site.

The petition, which has gained over 1,000 signatures at the time of writing, has been well received not only within York but across the UK. As Heather emphasises in her petition revenge porn is an “abuse of trust and public humiliation…that should be illegal…the abuse that follows, from users of revenge porn websites, adds to the distress of the victim.

“Sites that host these images have a large amount of internet traffic through them, meaning that a person’s intimate photo can have tens of thousands of views in only a couple of days…Future employment, relationships, friendships and families are all affected by acts of revenge porn.”

She argues that the UK should follow New Jersey, California, Australia and Israel in outlawing the uploading of such images.

Saskia Papadakis, YUSU Women’s Officer, told Nouse “We wholeheartedly support the campaign to ban revenge porn, and the Women’s Network has been active in encouraging people to sign the petition. Revenge porn is abusive and hugely destructive, and it is vital that victims are able to fight back against the individuals who post photos without permission, as well as sites that host this material. The university needs to support victims, as revenge porn can be damaging to a student’s well-being and affect future job prospects and relationships”.

Alex has achieved some success in removing the photos. However it has taken over seven weeks to get the pictures off myex.com and when Alex’s name is Googled the pictures are among the first results. Heather explained that it is likely that revenge porn has affected other students who are afraid of coming forward, not only in York but nationwide and argued that unified action needs to be taken.

George Offer, YUSU Welfare Officer, emphasised the importance of seeking help if you have been affected by ‘revenge porn’.

“We all think revenge porn is absolutely horrific. If you or anyone you know has been affected the best places to contact for information on how to get content removed is YUSU’s Advice and Support Centre and the University’s Equality & Diversity office or the Police, and if it has affected you personally or academically you can always talk to your college welfare team”

The campaign is receiving support from the Woman’s Committee at the University of York as well as the support of other universities including Sheffield, Edinburgh and Bournemouth.

If you wish to get involved with the campaign you can email Heather at [email protected]

42 comments

  1. You can sign the petition to ban revenge porn in the UK here:
    http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/ban-revenge-porn-uk

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  2. ALL porn should be banned. The enormous psychological and physical harm it does to users should be enough by itself to justify a complete ban/block, and that’s without getting into the social consequences of having a society where the majority of young males are addicted to extreme material which completely distorts their perceptions of women and relationships.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSF82AwSDiU

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  3. Undoubtedly the worst bit of all of this is the sharing of personal information that could encourage stalking and intimidation. The ex-boyfriend should be in someway liable for the sense of threat and danger that creates.

    You can get over people seeing your boobs, but living in fear of creeps tracking you down must be horrific.

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  4. This is horrible, I hope the everyone knows the ex that did this and what a nasty individual he is. Petition signed.

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  5. @Mr C

    Totally agree! There’s no place for that sort of degeneracy on campus, certainly not in a prestigious russel group uni. The portrayal of human sexuality in pornography is objectively bad, and thus should be banned.

    In face, so too should such films as “nymphomaniac” which also sell their own warped view of sexuality. No place here for that filth! TV shows such as Game of Thrones are arguably worse, bringing in the loose morals of “fantasy” worlds. Not in my university!

    Even worse are the shows that masquerade as child-oriented, selling their disgusting morality to younger, more impressionable viewers. Top of this list is the DESPICABLE Doctor Who, a show that has spent the last 50 years sexualising the Doctor’s assistants. Ban that shit! Any portrayal of human sexuality is wrong! Especially when aimed at children! In the recent film Frozen, I saw an uncovered female shoulder ! BAN THE FUCK OUT OF IT YOU SICK BASTARDS

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  6. @Therapist:

    Ah… I see what you did there

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  7. Alex would be well-adviced to talk to their provost (if in Alcuin, Derwent, Goodricke, Halifax or Wentworth) or college officer (if in James, Langwith or Vanbrugh) they have experience of dealing with a wide range of issues within the university and may offer or point to the sources of support. They support resident and non-resident students alike. It may be the case that if the alleged perpertrator is a University student himself secious disciplinary action can be taken. Again, provosts / college officers would be the best people to talk this through with.

    There is also Open Door Team that offers emotional support in a completely confidential setting.

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  8. how useful that you name the website in question so that other people can access the photos or do the same thing to other people

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  9. @Lucy
    If I talk about someone stabbing a person with a knife will people go and find one to do the same. Don’t be daft.

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  10. Are Nouse ever going to change the photo on the front of the site?

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  11. 23 Jan ’14 at 2:37 pm

    Cheeky Alumnus

    Can I have the link to the photos please?

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  12. Where might one find this revenge porn?

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  13. @Cheek Alumnus
    How about you find some other pictures of women you will never get to be with, if you don’t take the topic seriously keep opinions to yourself. Insensitive fool.

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  14. 24 Jan ’14 at 1:37 am

    Heather Robertson

    @Cheeky Alumnus: No you cannot have a link to the photo’s, aside from the obvious idiocy of your request and complete lack of taste in your humour we have been successful in having the pictures removed. Comments like yours mean that women don’t come forward when this happens to them as they fear this type of attention from people like yourself, that think it’s funny to mock them.

    You are a perfect example of people hiding behind keyboards with silly screen names like “cheeky alumnus” to justify your ever so edgy humour that can ultimately can be damaging to people reading them.

    Get a grip of yourself, and find something better to do than mock victims of internet crime.

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  15. @Heather Robertson

    I really don’t feel sorry for this person in this article.
    The person is an adult and should have took more responsibility when it comes to taking compromising photos nude photos of themselves with their bf.

    Yes, it is that simple.

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  16. 26 Jan ’14 at 9:24 am

    Heather Robertson

    @SS
    It is simple, put simply: you are wrong.

    I imagine by your standards a woman should never wear a short skirt, or wear provocative clothing as she may risk rape. She should take more responsibility.

    I imagine by your standards a woman should have chosen a better partner when he starts to hit her. She should take more responsibility.

    Should the children at school toughen up when the bullies hurt them? They should take more responsibility.

    There is nothing morally wrong with sending photos to the person you love, who loves you back and have been committed to for years. There is however something morally wrong with that person breaching your trust and throwing them about the internet.

    Congratulations also on having so much conviction in your point that you chose to use a screen name rather than your own.

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  17. @Heather Robertson

    Shut up with your feminist rant!

    Man or woman, you should take responsibility for yourself when you take naked photos of yourself, you are not children.

    Go away with your victim feminist mentality.

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  18. 1. Sharing photos of your ex as a way of getting revenge is a dick-move. There are no two ways about this. If you do this, you are a twat. I cannot stress this enough: You. Are. A. Little. Turd.

    2. Before you send around naked photos of yourself, you should be aware that photographs can be copied, shared, sold, emailed, printed or published in a matter of minutes thanks to the Internet. As a result, you should reaaaaallly think hard about it before you do this. THIS IS NOT VICTIM BLAMING. I AM NOT SAYING IT IS HER FAULT. I am just saying that this is just something people need to be aware of.

    3. Comparing “don’t send around naked photos of yourself, they might get shared” to “don’t wear a skirt, you might get raped” is inflammatory and stupid.

    4. A commenter named “Cheeky Alumnus” saying “where can I find these photos” is a JOKE and not something to get upset about. If you really find his joke distasteful, consider NOT RESPONDING, as raising an irate response was probably the initial intent of the comment.

    5. There is nothing shameful about using a pseudonym on an online discussion. Nor is there anything admirable about using your own name.

    6. Banning porn is a hilariously stupid idea that should have died out around the time when we stopped thinking masturbation caused blindness.

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  19. My god I have too much time on my hands.

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  20. 26 Jan ’14 at 6:37 pm

    Heather Robertson

    @SS
    I stopped reading after you told me to shut up, if you have something important to say, say it politely.

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  21. @Heather Robertson

    You are just another feminist trying to make a name for yourself at university. We always get attention seekers, we had one last year trying to ban the sun news paper.

    I think the “Therapist” made good balanced points.

    If you seriously think that woman have no responsibility and should not share any blame when they take naked photos of themselves and send them to others…….then you really are a irrational feminist.

    I would never take naked photos of myself and send them to any of my girl friends, because I am not stupid, and I am not that sad.

    I am done with you……The 1960s are over, get another cause.

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  22. 27 Jan ’14 at 12:11 am

    Heather Robertson

    @SS
    You’ve made your arguments based on your personal dislike of me and what you perceive my political affiliations to be.

    This is not a question of my morals, or my politics or whether I happen to have feminist views.

    I am supporting the campaign I started, I do not wish to force it on people that disagree, but 1,138 have signed a petition already that disagrees with you. Personally I do not want or need your approval, and this campaign does not want or need your approval.

    I laugh at you calling me an “irrational feminist” when you are so quick to passionately and irrationally attack me hidden behind a keyboard and a screen name.

    If you feel like a women should take responsibility for the naked photos then show your support for that view by not signing the petition.

    You are done with me?
    I never started with you.

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    • You are right having never started with “SS”. This kind of reactionary, far-right or neo-fascist ranting and belching cannot be countered with words. Human idiocy cannot be rooted out, but what about a legal or libel action? Debunking, naming and shaming won’t be enough to hold back “political” revenge porn.

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  23. Pornography isn’t the issue here, people have drawn naked pictures on cave walls thousands of years ago up until the modern incarnations of things. The performers are consenting adults, paid for their time and if you don’t want to watch it, you don’t have to.

    The issue is that someone suffered an egregious abuse of privacy by having an item shared outside of the original relationship of trust, along with personal, sensitive information which made them a target for abuse.

    The campaign is a feminist cause because, according to statistics easily accessible online, it is almost exclusively perpetrated by males against females. Most men are decent, kindly guys who wouldn’t consider doing this to a woman so I am not demonising men AT ALL and I doubt their porn habits inform their personality anymore than playing violent video games makes you go out and shoot people. But it is a feminist issue as it informs the treatment of women, if you have issues with that definition, I’ll have a reasoned argument with you.

    As for taking responsibility, we all only know the face our partner puts to us. This involves violent partners, partners who steal and people who abuse our trust in any number of ways. The only difference in a scenario where sharing intimate photos is a normal part of a relationship and an act like this is the betrayal. I have a right to film myself doing whatever and share it with my partner if I so choose. Most revenge porn is self-filmed. But there has to be a legislative response which agrees that revenge porn is harassment, which reflects the emotional damage an attack like this creates, accedes it as an attack which makes people feel unsafe, as this article indicates, and sends a societal response that it can’t be a go-to plan for someone when their pride is hurt as it was by this lonely, dickless wonder.

    Attacking Heather is low when all she’s trying to do is further a campaign that protects people. If you don’t agree, don’t sign the petition and hope noone ever takes a photo of you you dislike.

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  24. @Go Heather

    Take some responsibility for your own actions in life and you would not have this problem.

    The end.

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  25. @Go Heather

    You seem pretty cool.

    I take issue with Heather because she uses inflammatory, unhelpful comparisons (specifically the one where she likened SS’s comments to rape apology) and shaming tactics (you aren’t using your real name, thus you are hiding) which have no place in a reasonable discussion.

    That said, SS does exactly the same thing, and with more obvious vitriol. He obviously has a stereotypical view of what the word “feminist” entails. Unfortunately, Heather’s rather obnoxious attitude and argumentative tactics are only reinforcing this stereotype, just as SS’s actions are reinforcing her stereotype of the “disgruntled MRA.” Christ, I hate internet discussion. What kind of idiot would actively participate in such a futile activity?

    On the actual topic: it is obviously wrong to blame the victim. However, I worry that, in an effort not to victim blame, rational people will tread so softly in their discussion of the topic that we will fail to educate people of the potential risks that surround photographing oneself in compromising positions.

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  26. If you are dumb enough to broadcast private pictures of yourself in this day and technological age I’m afraid I have absolutely no sympathy for you when and if you break up with your ever so trustworthy partner and said ex fancies a little revenge, it’s human nature for many vengeful types.

    Hilarious comment above about cavemen drawings. Very funny indeed, an almost unapologetically immature thing to say.

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  27. @Rosey Bart

    There’s a difference between “share privately with someone in your life” and “Broadcast”, you self-righteous dipshit.

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  28. @Champagne

    You must be stupid to think taking naked photos of yourself and giving it to a bf or gf thinking they would be kept private till end of time. How naive, grow up!

    Take responsibility for your own actions in life and keep your clothes on.

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  29. @heather robertson

    NO. If you are stupid enough to do it, then your friend deserves everything that is coming to her.

    I am (and i suspect some others) are not sympathetic in the slightest.

    The disclosure of personal details yes, was wrong, but your friend should accept the majority of responsibility for this happening. She was stupid to o it in the first place and is unfortunately dealing with the consequences of her misjudged “love” for the person.

    Dont want to chance that picture going out in public? Dont take it in the first place.

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  30. me and haz just use snapchat… easy peasy lemon squeasy.

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  31. Being an adult doesn’t exempt you from exchanging naked photographs, the entire premise of an adult relationship is based on trust.
    Is it surprising participants in mature relationships may extend this a step further with pornographic photographs? Nah, I think it’d be massively naive to assume otherwise.
    What is surprising, something that you wouldn’t normally anticipate is the person you (seemingly) hold mutual respect and care for completely violating your trust.
    You don’t have to be a certain type of person in order for this to happen to you, the only criteria is that you have the basic capacity for trust. This is why I am signing. It could happen to any one of my friends or perhaps even me. It’s not okay, it’s disgusting.

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  32. oh bollocks, she screenshotted me!

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  33. 17 Feb ’14 at 4:45 pm

    Lord Flumblethwaddle

    Awful as this may be and as distressing something like this is for someone why the hell would you even consider sending naked photos of yourself to anyone?! The stupidity in doing so is remarkable when anything can be put online, can be distributed, copied and posted on any given site. My sympathy is limited, what an abundantly silly girl.

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  34. What about a statement from Yorkshire Police about WTF they weren’t any help?

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  35. 24 Feb ’14 at 9:48 pm

    Bazinga = Best Catchphrase

    Where can I find these pics

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  36. A poster nicknamed “SS” (“Schutzstaffel”, defence corps) should therefore be denied the right to take part in a democratic debate, his unique view being to stifle it at birth and ridicule divergent opinions. In Germany, for example, he would risk to be charged with propagating nazi ideology. No freedom for the enemies of freedom! No pasaran!

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  37. Don’t want your nudes getting out… Don’t send them. When you send nude photos you accept the risk that they may be made public. Yeah it’s a dick move on the ex’s part but she took the risk. No pictures in the first place, no pictures for vengeful ex to make public. She doesn’t have a leg to stand on really.

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  38. @Herschel @ Lord Flumblethwaddle

    Who wants your sympathy ?? No one. Specially not the victims. So please leave & yes take your ” limited sympathy “or ” no sympathy not even the slightest ” with you….. People are here to support a great cause so that a proper law can protect all those victims who are suffering because of this online hassasment. This needs to be stopped!! Recently a teacher became the victim of Revenge Porn where her face was photoshopped. This is disgraceful utterly disgusting. The pics where posted along with her full name & details. Right now my heart goes out to all those victims seriously !! I don’t care if the victim shared those pics with her ex partner or ex husband or BF, I don’t care if the victim got hacked or was documented secretly then got exposed online. I also don’t care if the person’s face was photoshopped along with someone else’s naked bodies . The thing is they are all victims no matter how stupid or idiotic it looks to you the bottom line is no one deserves such exploitation & harassement period !! Every victim has right to fight back !! They have right to their privacy ! They got every right to live a normal human life . THEY ARE VICTIMS NOT CRIMINALS . Cyber criminals are right now playing Gods they are above the law, above us all. Those predators can exploit, harass anyone with almost anything anytime out there. So yes, we need to toughen up the law more & more, day by day in order to beat the online harassment & make an end to it. So yes Revenge Porn should be banned ……GLOBALLY .

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