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Revenge porn is violence

Revenge pornography is the dissemination of sexually explicit images or videos without the consent of the person in them. At the time the material was made, there may have been consent to the recording by the subject. This consent is not all-encompassing and does not include permission to share said material. 

In cases where the subject does not consent to the recording or the recording is made under duress, the distribution of this material is merely a secondary step in an already existing violation. 

These materials are brandished as a tool against the victim in many instances, such as an amicable split where there was an existing relationship or blackmail; individuals extort money from the victim, threatening to publicly expose the victim and damage their reputation. 

The word “revenge” in the phrase “Revenge Porn” implies malicious intent. It is a blanket term that describes revenge situations as well as all forms of “image-based sexual abuse” or nonconsensual pornography. 

The constant in these situations is the use of the material to extort or manipulate the victim. The distribution of these explicit materials is usually accompanied by doxxing (sharing personal information like address, place of work etc), a further violation of one’s constitutionally protected rights. 

In the 1980s, an American publication, “Hustler magazine”, began a monthly feature of reader-submitted images of naked women called “Beaver Hunt”. The photographs submitted were often accompanied by personal details about the women and it was noted that not all of the women featured submitted their images. Several women sued the magazine for publishing their photographs without their permission, or without verifying information on forged consent forms.

Cases of revenge porn increased significantly with the advent of mobile phones as well as cameras being included as a standard feature on most models. Technology has aided the quick sharing of images, leading to an increase in people sharing intimate images with their partners via social media, text and other instant messaging platforms.

The long term effects of geography on the victims also tend to be overlooked, a 2016 study revealed participants’ experiences of trust issues, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and several other mental health concerns. The study focused on the gravity of revenge porn, the devastating impacts it has on survivors’ mental health, and the similarities observed between revenge porn and sexual assault.

Last week, Nigerian singer Tiwa Savage was on the receiving end of this violence. The internationally acclaimed singer revealed she was being blackmailed with an explicit video, she told Angie Martinez of Power 105.1 that she would not pay the money the blackmailers demanded, an act of bravery that took power away from those attempting to exploit her. Eventually, the video was released on the internet, exposing the singer to public criticism. 

In some places, revenge porn has been criminalised and is a punishable offence as long as one of the identifiable parties did not give consent. The 2015 Nigerian Cybercrimes Act in Section 24 provides that;

(a) Any person who knowingly or intentionally sends a message or other matter by means of computer systems or network that is grossly offensive, pornographic or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character or causes any such message or matter to be so sent; or

(b) he knows to be false for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, ill will or needless anxiety to another or causes such a message to be sent commits an offence under this Act and shall be liable on conviction to a fine of not more than N7, 000, 000.00 or imprisonment for a term of not more than 3 years or to both such fine and imprisonment.

This provision encompasses revenge porn, however, the law isn’t hope-inspiring considering the faulty nature of our legal system. 

Unfortunately, in these situations, the victims (mostly women) are slut-shamed and vilified. People ask, “why did she make the video in the first place?” and not “why was it shared without consent?”

This behaviour absolves the perpetrator of blame. There is no situation where revenge porn is acceptable. It is a violent breach of trust and a violation of the individual’s right to privacy. 

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