Stop revenge porn

Ellie Hutchinson discusses Scottish Women’s Aid’s latest campaign. Ellie is the Prevention Worker at Scottish Women’s Aid. She coordinates the “Together we can stop it” community education campaign, online communications and projects such as Get Savi, I Get It, and Stop Revenge Porn Scotland. She has volunteered as a youth worker, a rape crisis support worker, and is the Chair of Hollaback! Edinburgh.

Revenge porn is when a partner or ex-partner purposefully distributes images or videos of a sexual nature without the other person’s consent. At Scottish Women’s Aid, we recently launched a new project, Stop Revenge Porn, to tackle it. The first of its kind in the UK, and inspired by Holly Jacobs, from End Revenge Porn in the States, we wanted to start a public conversation about revenge porn: why it happens, how we can respond, and importantly, how we can prevent it.

Tackling and preventing revenge porn means acknowledging a few things; firstly, we have to move away from the false belief that domestic or dating abuse is about a punch or a kick only. Domestic abuse is about the purpose of such behaviour. It’s about control and humiliation. It’s about power. Like a punch or a kick, the threat of or actual distribution of images is purposeful. It has meaning and intent: to retain and gain power and control.

If domestic abuse is seen as a one-off violent incident that comes out of the blue, the question will always be “why does she stay?”. But when we understand domestic abuse as an ongoing, systematic wearing down of someone’s sense of self, bodily autonomy and freedom of movement, we can begin to properly interrogate it and invest in ways to prevent it. If we can’t agree on the causes, we can’t agree on the cure.

Secondly, and related to that, is the importance of challenging victim blaming and shaming. Speaking out against revenge porn and the sharing of experiences is an incredibly brave and courageous act. It is an act of absolute defiance and takes huge reserves of energy; more often than not folk are greeted with abuse and misogyny rather than support and compassion. We’ve created a space on our new mini-site for women for share (anonymously if they wish) their stories – it’s so important that survivors continue to be front and centre of all of our work.

One of the most consistent questions that women are asked is “why did you send/take those pictures?”. To me, this is just a variation on the “why does she stay” theme, with added shaming around female sexuality. It places all the responsibility on the victim rather than the perpetrator, it keeps his actions hidden and normalises his behaviour. This is not an accident. This is sexism. These victim blaming statements stop us talking about the men who do it, stop us challenging the websites who host these images and stop us exploring ways to prevent it.

It’s up to all of us to speak out against victim blaming and to change the conversation. The question we really need to be asking (and answering) is not “why did you do it?”, but “why does he think it’s ok?”.

We’ve created a flickr page for folk to send in messages of support to women who have been victimised, and it would be great if all of you could send something in. We want the women who’ve experienced this to know they are not alone, they did nothing wrong and we are here for them.

The image shows a collage of women’s photos, with a handwritten sign in front of the photos reading “You did nothing wrong having private moments with a partner. They are WRONG for sharing those moments with anyone else without your consent. We’re on your side!”, plus smiley faces, hearts and the female symbol. It is taken from the Stop Revenge Porn flickr page

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