R̶e̶v̶e̶n̶g̶e̶ ̶P̶o̶r̶n̶ Image Sharing Abuse: More Than You Think It Is

There’s no denying that our phones connected to services like WhatsApp have made us all super connected. But it’s also opened up a world of problems that we struggle to keep up with. “Revenge porn” is one such symptom of a society that doesn’t truly grasp the sheer power of this technology. You might feel my wording is soft here for someone who films a sexual act and shares it without permission and you’re right. But that’s because I’m talking about a lot more than what might come to mind when you hear the term “revenge porn”.

What Is “Revenge Porn”?

The term “revenge porn” is a commonly used term to refer to sexual abuse carried out through the sharing of videos and images. It’s an extremely problematic terminology to use because it gives a completely different sense of the issue at hand. The assumed first impression is that of a consensually filmed intimate act which, generally due to a breakdown in a relationship, was shared by one of those involved in the act.

What this assumed definition omits is media shared between people who are “sexting” being passed onto another person not involved in the act. If you’re unfamiliar, “sexting” is people messaging each other erotic messages and possibly media too. In this case, it’s very difficult to see how anything created here was “porn” or how the sharing was “revenge”.

Lord Mayor of Dublin, Hazel Chu, has called on a change of language around the topic.

Is Image Sharing Abuse A Real Problem?

Image sharing abuse is a very real problem and it’s a massive problem here in Ireland too. Forwarding on apps like WhatsApp have made such media spreading like wildfire easier than ever. While this, of course, is not gender or sexual orientation-specific, it does have a specifically large impact on the female population of Ireland.

Linda Hayden, a co-founder of The Victims Alliance, has brought to light that the fact there are hundreds of thousands of sexual images of women in Ireland online without their consent. Hayden believes the likelihood is that women in Ireland are being targeted in a systemic way, not just through casual leaks because there is no law in Ireland.

In April 2017, Dara Quigley had what her mother described as a “psychotic episode”. She was found naked, walking down Harcourt Street in Dublin. Gardaí detained her after spotting her on street-level CCTV. Afterwards, a Garda rewound the footage, recorded it on their smartphone and shared it to a WhatsApp group with other Gardaí. The video ended up being shared outside of this group and was eventually found on a website, viewed over 120,000 times by members of the public. Dara Quigley learned of the leak and on April 12th 2017 she killed herself. Because of Irish law, or lack thereof, the Garda in question faced no criminal penalties and to this day the Quigley family is in an ongoing battle with Garda HQ and the state.

Petition To Criminalise Image Sharing Abuse In Ireland

The conditions in Ireland have brought us to this position. Technology has left both the survivors of image sharing abuse and, in some circumstances, the perpetrators of the abuse, with no idea of how quickly an image or video can spread like wild fire. School curriculums need to teach people from a young age more advanced media studies classes.

But all the education in the world won’t stop a perpetrator who knows exactly what they are doing and don’t care. That’s why there have been calls on the government to criminalise image sharing abuse.

You, your mother, your brother, your sister or your children could end up devastated by image sharing abuse, also known as “revenge porn”. It takes just two seconds for an image to be shared without consent, ruining someone’s life. It also just takes two seconds to sign the petition calling for this to be made illegal. It takes just two seconds to delete an incoming WhatsApp in your friends group and call people out on the sharing of such images. Challenge yourself and others on what image sharing abuse is because it’s a lot more common than you think.

If you have been affected by this article or have has images shared without your consent you can contact the Women’s Aid helpline on 1800 341 900.