Revenge Porn, Sextortion And Other Nasty Virtually Violent Harmful Behaviour

Men are likely to experience name-calling and embarrassment, while young women are vulnerable to sexual harassment and stalking on all social platforms.

I was the target of a vengeful ex. The first time I ended the relationship, he called me up to ten times in succession, a few times a day, and bombarded me with online messages. In a typical vulnerable space, I listened to his pleas and promises of change, and went back. However a virtual red flag had been raised. The second time I left, he warned me he would repeat his online harassing and escalate it. I blocked him off all platforms and he found a way to connect with me online and true to his word, the harassment intensified. Worn down from this toxic relationship, facing a book deadline, I went back. This time I planned my escape. I blocked off every online platform, and known email account and professional space.

Virtual harassers can be technologically smart, well, smarter than me, and unknown to me, my harasser found an old email account and for weeks violently harassed me online via an old email account. I was oblivious to this. So I went on with my life, until my family alerted me. This harasser was driven crazy by my silence and had begun to harass my family and friends.

Two lawyers were brought in to advise and protect me. This harasser was not deterred by their legal letters of warning, both lawyers refused me issuing a restraining order believing it might further incite this man and what of my professional reputation. I said “Fuck my professional reputation, get this man out of my life.” I changed gyms, daily routines, telephone numbers, got in extra personal security, sent out weekly warnings and updates to friends and families who were my eyes and ears. And doubled up my therapy sessions. I was a mess. Daily I was assaulted by a number of emails, messages on websites where I was working, all of which I had to read, and check for signs of physical threats of violence, and report back to my lawyers. This lasted nearly one year.

I was not alone in my virtual violence, 73 percent of adult internet users have seen someone get harassed in some way online and 40 percent have personally experienced it, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center.

Those who have personally experienced online harassment said they were the target of at least one of the following online:

27 percent of internet users have been called offensive names.

22 percent have had someone try to purposefully embarrass them.

8 percent have been physically threatened.

8 percent have been stalked.

7 percent have been harassed for a sustained period.

6 percent have been sexually harassed.

The data shows that men are more likely to experience name-calling and embarrassment, while young women are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment and stalking on all social media platforms. Men highlight online gaming and comments sections as spaces they typically encounter harassment. The emotional toll is horrendous.

I’m not talking about teenagers only, I’m talking about adults who in fits of anger, threaten or do in fact harass a partner online. Spewing Insults and cruel words that can be read and reread on WhatsApp, especially after the relationship/hook up has ended. Technology enables Intimate Partner Violence to reach a much more personal level of inescapable pain.

I am totally opposed to adult consenting women – and men – losing their right to sext their naked bodies to whomsoever they choose.

Let’s move into another area of virtual violence,namely “revenge porn”. I am totally opposed to adult consenting women – and men – losing their right to sext their naked bodies to whomsoever they choose. This is no protection of women, This is a removal of their freedom of expression, a victory for men who cannot understand the concept of healthy sexuality and how to manage out of control emotions and behaviour.

Think of your last naked Skype call, consensual video taping of a hot sex scene you and your partner enjoyed, hours of sexting to a virtual or real life lover. Imagine this being placed on a site like myex.com. You want to scream “help” and seek out the closest social media lawyer.

South Africa, like many other countries worldwide, is looking to criminalise revenge porn. It is an invasion of privacy. In 2004, New Jersey passed the USA’s first such legislation, the statute makes it a crime for a person who knows “that he is not licensed or privileged to do so” to nonetheless disclose “any photograph, film, videotape, recording or any other reproduction of the image of another person whose intimate parts are exposed or who is engaged in an act of sexual penetration or sexual contact, unless that person has consented to such disclosure.”

A new language and paradigm has emerged:

“Nonconsensual-porn laws, sometimes people hack into a celebrity’s iCloud or Gmail account to steal intimate pictures that can be sold and posted online.

“Sextortion”, in which a person threatens to release your naked images online unless you pay up.

“Misogynistic Trolls” who threaten women in online comment threads.

Companies are taking this seriously. So should you. They have started providing online forms that allow victims to request that content be deleted without having to assert copyright first. Reddit, Twitter, and Facebook adopted policies against involuntary pornography in early 2015. Instagram, Google, Bing, and Yahoo soon followed. The search engines also agreed to “de-index” revenge porn, so that it no longer comes up under searches of the depicted person’s name, though it can still be accessed through the URL. In October, 2015, PornHub joined the effort, announcing that it would honour requests to take down revenge porn.

If you are a survivor or a current victim of virtual violence, follow my guide:

  1. Contact a lawyer and a therapist. It is virtually impossible to manage this trauma alone.
  2. Take screen shots of the pictures/correspondence online, including any online comments, before deleting them, as they may contain death and assault threats.
  3. Keep the metrics, how many times has he contacted you in a period of time.
  4. Immediately block this person off all social media platforms. You will be sorely tempted to read and respond defensively to harassment. Refrain.
  5. Rereading harassing mail, viewing You Tube videos of you naked and sexy, or being verbally harassed, triggers more trauma. Refrain.
  6. Stop shaming yourself. You may wonder how you let this person into your life. Stop self criticism.
  7. You have the right to be fully expressive and sexy online. I suggest never sending your face along with body parts.
  8. Know that you are at risk of being exposed when the relationship/hook up ends. So be mindful, make up your own mind whether or not you want to be sexting.
  9. Photoshopping of your photos may well happen: your face on top of a strange woman’s/man’s genitals. It is indeed humiliating as the context in which the images are distributed, is distorted and misrepresentative of you.
  10. Tell an employer about it, they may come across it. If you delete all your profiles, a prospective employer won’t see any sign of you having an online presence and this breeds suspicion about who you are as you leave no much required digital footprint.

Call me.