“If you leave, I’ll ruin your life with these pictures…”

One form of  digital abuse  you might have heard of is nonconsensual pornography, often called “revenge porn.” This type of abuse intersects with sexual abuse , as it involves the digital distribution of nude or sexually explicit photos and/or videos of a person without their consent. It’s called “revenge” porn because the images or videos are often used as retaliation or as blackmail material by a current or former partner.

At love is respect, we hear from many people who have experienced this form of abuse. Some victims have willingly shared images privately with their partners, only to have their partners break their trust and later threaten to distribute those images publicly. Others have had partners coerce or force them into creating sexually explicit materials in order to shame, control and manipulate them. Alternatively, an abusive partner might take photographs or videos without the victim’s knowledge and then use the threat of sharing those materials online to maintain control over the victim.

Like all forms of abuse, revenge porn is extremely traumatizing. Unfortunately, legislation has been slow to respond; not all states have enacted laws against revenge porn or recognize it as a crime, leaving victims with little to no legal recourse in some cases. The Cyber Civil Rights Initiative provides a guide to current state laws , as well as a list of additional resources for survivors.

Safety tips & resources

You have the right to say “no” if you are not comfortable sending your partner sexually explicit images. No one is ever obligated to engage in sexual activity of any kind, with anyone. Note that in every state it is illegal to have or share sexual photos or videos of anyone who is under the age of 18. If your partner continues to request images or videos you are not comfortable taking or sending, here are some safety tips:

  • Tell your partner your parents/guardian monitor your devices making it so you cannot take or send sexually explicit material.
  • Change out your phone to one that does not have the capability of taking photos or recording video.
  • Suggest other ways of connecting sexually that cannot be documented.

If your partner continues to pressure you or starts forcing you to send sexually explicit materials and you do not feel safe resisting or refusing, you may feel that the safest course of action is to send them. The following tips may help protect your safety and privacy as much as possible:

  • Try to avoid showing any identifying features (face, tattoos, birthmarks, etc) in the pictures you send.
  • Take pictures using a neutral, non-identifying background with dark lighting.
  • Add a filter to the photo that will alter coloring making the image less identifiable.
  • Google has created a form where revenge porn victims can request that their images be removed from search results. You can access the form here .
  • Get support and make an emotional safety plan.

If your partner is pressuring you to send explicit pictures or videos, or if they are threatening to share materials you have shared privately with them, call, chat or text with us any time. Our advocates are here to provide support, safety planning tips, and can also connect you with local or legal resources depending on your situation.

Answers shouldn’t be hard to find.

We're here to help!