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Revenge Pornography - Our Youth Board speaks out

Today, the BBC released the findings of an investigation into revenge pornography which show that victims as young as 11 have been targeted. Here are some thoughts from our Youth Ambassador Hannah-Lily Lanyon:

Revenge porn is one of many malicious and manipulative uses of technology used by our generation, with statistics released by the BBC today showing that within the first year of a new law coming in, 1,173 people reported being a victim of this crime.

Notably, 30% of those victims are under 19. Whilst this is tragic, it is not shocking, as it reflects the bigger picture in terms of young people and domestic violence: the same percentage of teenage girls have reported being victims of domestic abuse. Furthermore, the BBC’s research showed that 25 was the most common age of a revenge porn victim. This is again unsurprising, as 16-24 year olds are the age group most likely to be affected by domestic violence so its predictable that this is around this age where revenge porn flourishes.
 
The fact that we see children as young as 11 coming forward shows that revenge porn is a downward spiral – from an early age children become more and more likely to become victims. This is why the preventative work of charities like Tender, particularly in schools and youth centres, is so important; teaching young people about the dangers of revenge porn at a young age can stop the escalation in later years
 
The research shows that 68% of cases involved Facebook (with Instagram and Snapchat accounting for 12% and 5% respectively). This social networking culture means that young people don’t understand the severity of what they are doing, but it is illegal and can cause significant emotional harm to the victim. Revenge porn is often a form of relationship abuse, and can lead to bullying. Frustratingly, the figures of low conviction rates, less than 11%, show that justice is often not served, and even when a perpetrator is penalised the damage is often already done. From the moment of the pictures being taken to them being distributed, it is an exercise of control over the victim that robs them of all privacy and security, and can destroy relationships with families and friends. This is why prevention is key.
 
Furthermore, it is important not to blame the victim: this retraumatises them and makes it hard to report the crime. It is easy to judge the victim and place blame on her choices, however it is important to remember that sometimes girls are being forced to take the pictures, sometimes they don’t know they’ve been taken and sometimes it’s a private choice they made in a world of evolving technology with a person they thought they could trust.  Without appropriate sex education in schools to help young girls to identify safe and unsafe activity, how can we blame them for not always knowing the impact of these actions?
 
Most of all, it’s important not to get distracted from the people who are making active and malicious choices here: the perpetrators. It’s about placing the responsibility on perpetrators and asking what it is that makes them feel that they’re entitled to humiliate and abuse people in this way.
 
Thankfully, this new legislation suggests that victims have found it easier to come forward, meaning that they’re one step closer to victim support. However the numbers who have come forward are likely a scratch on the surface of the true scale of those affected; in the end, removing the taboo on revenge porn and empowering the voice of victims within their immediate social and familial circle is the only way to encourage full disclosure. Furthermore, cuts to specialised services mean that once victims do come forward, there is less and less support offered for them. Donating to charities like Tender and campaigning against the cuts, with groups such as Sisters Uncut, are ways that you can help make sure young people are supported at all points in their struggle with cyber and domestic abuse.

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