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Revenge porn: how employers can support victims

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During lockdown in April 2020, nearly double the number of people reached out for support for the sharing of revenge porn compared to April 2019.

As our lives become increasingly lived online, so too are our intimate relationships. As many as one in seven young women have received threats to share their private images.

This all means it is increasingly likely that you may need to support an employee through the horror of this having happened to them, but also the practical implications, and steps they may be able to take.

 

What is it?

Revenge porn is the sharing of private sexual materials (photos or videos), of another person, without their consent and with the purpose of causing them embarrassment or distress. Threats to share are also an offence.

The wider description of image-based sexual abuse might also include crimes such as voyeurism, harassment, up-skirting, or webcam blackmail.

 

How might it feel?

Survivors of revenge porn with whom I work with often tell me how powerless they feel. Having your deeply personal sexual images or videos shared without your consent, with no idea of where they might end up, and no idea who might see them, is terrifying.

They often feel they might be judged by those they tell, or that because these images even exist, they’ve done something wrong. This is categorically not true, and it’s important to reassure them that it is the person who has shared who has done wrong – not them.

 

How it might impact the workplace

Survivors often worry it may reflect badly on their professional life, or affect their career, or they’ll even lose their job. Try to reassure them that’s not the case.

Have the images or videos already been shared with work colleagues? If not, has your employee been threatened with just that?

Does your employee know who is sharing the images? Are they coming from a specific email address or phone number? Could your IT team block an email address from contacting all staff?

Can they delete an email from all inboxes, if already sent? Do you have IT policies on attachments from unknown or external senders, or if emails contain sexually explicit language?

 

What can you recommend?

Revenge porn is a crime; your employee has the right to report it to the police. You can offer to support with this, but it is of course their choice and decision. They may not feel able to report it yet, and should be allowed to consider this in their own time.

They may be fearful, particularly because it may mean having to show officers the image; which is what they didn’t want to be shared in the first place. 

The Revenge Porn Helpline is a fantastic resource, which can help survivors navigate practical avenues open to them. This includes how to contact organisations to ask that images are taken down.

You can also recommend that survivors contact lawyers to get legal advice about their situation, and what action they may be able to take against the perpetrator or hosting sites.

 

Emily McFadden is an Associate Solicitor at Bolt Burdon Kemp