Revenge Porn

Revenge porn, is a particularly ugly term that references the incidence of ex-partners or spouses post explicit pictures of their former loved one online as revenge. It is on the rise in our social media driven world.  Unhappy divorcee’s have joined jilted lovers, angry ex-boyfriends and malicious friends have not only posted pictures, but tried to blackmail someone with the threat. What protection or recourse is there for victims of revenge porn?

The Law and Revenge Porn

Earlier this year a report from a Senate inquiry into “revenge porn” was released.  It contained eight recommendations. Like with many other rapidly evolving cyber issues, the law is playing catch-up.

The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee defines “revenge porn” as involving:

… sharing private sexual images and recordings of a person without their consent, with the intention to cause that person harm.

Because the law is playing catch-up, victims have limited access to justice.  A threat to use revenge porn is blackmail, which is a criminal offence, but there is currently no recourse if the images have been uploaded. It is not just the images themselves that are harmful to the victims and their families, but these images are often only part of the problem.  Research suggests that these images are used to abuse, threaten and harass victims.

In short, a new federal criminal offence would send a clear message to the community and potential perpetrators that these abusive behaviours are unacceptable and will not go unpunished.

One woman, Robyn Night, says, “The UK, USA, Canada and Japan have all introduced specific legislation to protect revenge porn victims — it’s time for Australia to urgently follow their lead.” She understands this in a personal way after having been a victim of revenge porn. It happened via Facebook and she found out about it from a friend, which may have then left her less surprised when completely strange men started knocking on her door – dozens of them.

A man she had been in a relationship with had posted a doctored photo of her to an explicit website.  With the picture was her name, address and a picture ofrevenge porn, blackmail, divorce, relationship breakup her home. On chat sites he was impersonating her and also telling strangers, “‘Don’t even knock, just come in.’.” She was terrified and did what most people would do – she phoned the police.

Unfortunately, there was not much they could do. They even told her that they could do nothing. It was only after four years that police were able to execute a search warrant at the impersonator’s home. He has been charged with a number of things including stalking, but won’t face revenge porn charges because they don’t exist.

One of the recommendations in the Senate inquiry report addresses this fact:

Recommendation 2

5.18    Taking into account the definitional issues discussed in this report, the committee recommends that the Commonwealth government legislate, to the extent of its constitutional power and in conjunction with state and territory legislation, offences for:

Revenge is not Always Sweet

Hopefully this will discourage spiteful ex-partners from resorting to revenge porn.  But even when they are breaking the law, some just don’t seem to care or think that their victim will be too scared to speak out.  Not so Amanda Mortimer who went to police after she says she received photos in the mail from her ex-husband, Gerald McCarthy.  It was apparently a blackmail bid to get her to lie in court about no longer needing maintenance payments from him.  Jurors heard that the intimate images were still shots taken from a video McCarthy had taken “for insurance” without Mrs Mortimer’s knowledge. She told the court that when she was sent the provocative photo on a previous occasion it came with a note saying, “I’ll plaster the video everywhere. You’ll never work again, you’ll be too embarrassed.”

revenge porn, blackmail, divorce, relationship breakupIn this case the jury found McCarthy ‘not guilty’ because there was no compelling evidence that he had actually tried to blackmail his ex-wife, aside from her word.  Although we may never know who was really getting back at who in that particular situation, revenge is such a common theme in broken relationships that we don’t find it to be a surprise.

Our culture seems to be one that embraces revenge – as long as we’re not on the receiving end.

We have books, movies, tv series and songs that all have revenge as their central theme.  It’s certainly how Quentin Tarantino makes his money with movies such as Kill Bill and Inglorious Basterds which center around exacting bloody revenge.

Why do people want revenge?  Why do you and I long for revenge when we are hurt (as we often are in a divorce)? We long for things to be made ‘right’, although our sense of justice can be warped and ‘right’ isn’t always ‘good’.

The saying ‘revenge is sweet’ actually has some physical evidence to back it.  Swiss researchers studied the effect of revenge on the brain and when subjects were given the opportunity for revenge on partners who had cheated in a game. Party lights went off in the same part of the brain that lights up for those getting a cocaine or nicotine high. The high, though, is very short lived. The study went on to show that those who didn’t exact revenge were much more positive than those who had chosen that path.

Tim Suttle, a pastor and writer says, “Revenge seeking allows a person to ruminate on the offense for longer than is healthy. When revenge is off the table, we are more likely to let the offense go, even to forgive. That means that if you take two victims of injustice—one who seeks revenge and one who forgives—and look at the long-term impact of that choice, you will find the person who chose to forgive will be more healthy and whole.”

Speak Out or Stop

If you’re thinking of getting back at your ex-husband or ex-wife by posting revenge porn, don’t. That short-lived high may seem sweet at the time, but it may get you into more trouble than you realise and in the long term your bitterness will consume you. You may also face criminal charges because the law will catch up with technology.

If you are a victim of revenge porn, take heart because the law is starting to catch-up. Go to the police, especially if you feel threatened in any way.

If you’d like to speak to one of our family lawyers, then please contact us today. We offer a free, 10-minute phone consultation.