Mary Torjussen is back with her new book The Girl I Used To Be. To celebrate its release, she's written a feature all about the world of revenge porn she researched when writing the novel. Here are 7 things she learned while doing so...

1. Women have always been publicly shamed for their sexuality in a way that few men are and now there’s a whole new arena where they can be humiliated and controlled. Years ago, one of my friends dumped her boyfriend for cheating – he didn’t take it well and the next time she was in their local pub she realised all of his mates had seen photos of her naked. It was a real shock, though, when my research showed this has happened to nearly a quarter of women in their 20s, and those photos weren’t limited to the local pub, but potentially reached a worldwide audience.

2. In my research, I found voyeur websites that horrified me, many containing degrading images clearly taken without the woman’s consent – or, often, even her knowledge - and posted online without a care for her feelings or reputation. And while images on voyeur sites aren’t tagged with a name, they are, of course, if they’re on social media. They’ll also appear on an online search, so that family, friends, colleagues and employers can see photos which you’d never intended them to see.

3. I was really shocked to find that no matter how much money a woman has, she can’t stop these invasions into her privacy. There are photos and sex tapes online of many female celebrities, showing us all that no matter how powerful and rich you are, it’s still impossible to permanently delete those images and videos.

4. When talking to friends I found that nobody really knew what to do if they found private images of themselves online. I spoke to a police officer about this – she said complaints had massively increased over the last few years. She advised the first thing to do is to take screenshots immediately – you will need evidence. If your ex realises he’s in trouble, he could take the photos down, but you need proof he put them up there in the first place. Then report the image to the website and ask them to remove the images. If the images are discoverable via Google, then you can contact Google and ask for the “right to be forgotten.” Click here to make that request. The Revenge Porn Helpline offers fantastic support after the event, too. The police will also take your complaint seriously, as finally the law is catching up with societal change.

5. An Act of Parliament, The Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm Act, now makes it an offence to disclose or threaten to disclose intimate images or videos without consent, with a punishment of up to five years in prison, and the law on voyeurism is finally expanding to cover upskirting.

6. That’s all well and good but those images are still out there, regardless. You can get that guy put in prison and you can make Facebook take down the images and ask Google to delete the links, but those images will still be out there. Most of the voyeur websites are hosted in countries which don’t have the same laws on human rights as we do here, therefore they are not breaking the law.

7. It’s clear that we need to be educated from a very young age as to the problems of over-sharing online. Boys and men in particular need to understand the injustice and betrayal of women’s shaming, but ultimately women need to empower themselves, refuse to share photos with people who can’t be trusted to keep those images private and be prepared to take swift action if they are betrayed. Above all, show solidarity with other women and don’t have anything to do with people who want to shame and punish women for their sexuality.


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