Non-Consensually-Shared Material on a Porn Site

Overview

Often referred to as “revenge pornography,” image-based sexual abuse occurs in a wide range of non-revenge-motivated scenarios where nude or sexually explicit material is non-consensually produced and/or distributed. In fact, even if you consented to making or sending the images, the threat of distributing explicit or sexual material without the consent of the person depicted is a form of image-based sexual abuse (IBSA).

Most states have passed laws criminalizing the non-consensual sharing of intimate images or videos. Additionally, there may be civil remedies against the perpetrators or the websites who have hosted this abuse.

Defining Terms and Issues Related to Image-based Sexual Abuse

What are explicit or sexual images?

Intimate, sexual, or explicit images include those that portray your genitals or breasts, or that depict you engaged in a private activity, like undressing, showering, or having sex.

What about photoshopped images or “deepfakes”?

Another form of image-based abuse is digitally altering sexualized images and/or videos to feature someone else’s face, which in some cases involves deepfakes. These fake images still use your face and can lead to many of the same consequences as though they were real. This is still a fairly new area of the law, but states like California are starting to recognize its danger and are creating laws for victims to fight back.

What should you do if you discover images of yourself being shared without your consent?

First, consider your safety. If you are being threatened or harmed in any way, including by those who watch the recording, you must have a safety plan. Engage supportive family and friends, contact law enforcement, an attorney, and any other support group or counseling you need. Your well-being is the top priority.

Next, preserve any evidence you come across unless you are a minor (see below). Whether on social media or porn sites, or via text and email, you should try to save copies, links, or screenshots of the images and threats being made. However, do not go looking for these things. Not only does that expose you to other disturbing material, these searches create more stress and anxiety about the circumstances you face and will not help investigators.

WARNING: If you are a minor, or the images depict you when you were a minor, do not preserve or save these images because they are illegal Child Sexual Abuse Material and there are no exceptions for possession. Not even for the victims themselves. You should report these immediately to the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCMEC) CyberTipline. You can do this by copying the URL where the image/video is located (which is not illegal) and pasting that URL into the online tip form. And contact law enforcement immediately because this is a serious crime. NCMEC can help prevent these images/videos from resurfacing in a way no one else can. They also have resources and counseling for victims.

Seek help. Involve supportive friends and family, counselors and support groups, law enforcement, and attorneys. You never have to face this alone.

If you are being threatened with blackmail, for example, if someone is demanding you pay them or perform other acts to keep the images private, do not agree to any demands. Giving into demands never stops the threats and may make you vulnerable to more abuse. Contact police and legal support for advice and protection.

Last but not least, do not blame yourself. Even if you consented to creating the images, you are not to blame for someone misusing them. It is never okay for someone to violate your trust or go against your wishes in distributing these private images.

Understanding the Parameters of Image-based Sexual Abuse

Why is the term “revenge porn” incomplete?

Image-based sexual abuse (IBSA) is commonly called revenge porn, but revenge is not always the motivation for sharing these images without consent. Image-based sexual abuse can be perpetrated by people who do not even know the person in the images nor have any feelings towards them. These are images distributed without consent, even if the image was made with consent or even if the image was made by the person depicted. Both men and women can be victims of image-based sex abuse. While most victims of nonconsensual image-based abuse seem to be women, men are victims too and often underreport or have their reports taken less seriously.

What are the consequences of image-based sexual abuse?

The experience of knowing there are intimate videos or pictures of you on the internet leads to significant stress. Once the images are discovered, victims are affected in all areas of their lives. It can be humiliating and severely affect the ability to trust others. Harassment and being treated differently at work interfere with productivity and opportunities. Friends and family may be affected, and this can lead to strained relationships or loved ones distancing themselves. Harassment or random contacts from strangers may occur, in person or on social media. These stressors create and compound trauma. The situation can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to stay that way — legal help is available.

Can I remain anonymous?

You may ask the court to remain anonymous in a case where you are the plaintiff in a sexual abuse case. There are many good reasons for this, like preventing further attention, harassment, or retaliation. However, many plaintiffs feel empowered by coming forward and speaking out about their experiences. The decision is up to you.

Can I get a video offline with a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown?

Sometimes, people suggest that you have your videos removed with a DMCA take down.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is a way to protect creative works from being appropriated by someone else. But it has also evolved as an important tool in removing private images from the web that you did not authorize to be shared. There are useful services that will guide you on removing this content from the web or will take them down for you for a fee.

However, as previously mentioned, these images may re-emerge. Additionally, the law only applies to the U.S. and U.S. hosted sites. Tracking down domain owners can be difficult as well. Furthermore, if you do not have the original or cannot prove that the images belonged to you, you may not be able to use a takedown service.

Most importantly, taking down the video does not hold those who uploaded or distributed it, like porn sites, accountable for the harm they have caused. There is nothing wrong with using DMCA to remove a video, and it will not interfere with getting legal help, but it’s important to understand these limitations.

Could a removed video/image of me ever resurface?

An attorney can help you take the image down, but it may be difficult to remove all content or to keep it removed. This is because some people download copies and then redistribute the content. However, removing it from major platforms can make a big difference in preventing its distribution.

Could I Qualify for a Lawsuit?

Confidentiality: The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) may use or maintain the information provided here to contact you for further details regarding your experience. Information from this form is strictly confidential. Access to confidential information is permitted only on a need-to-know basis and limited to the minimum amount of confidential information necessary to accomplish the intended purpose of the use, disclosure, or request. By submitting this information, you authorize representatives of NCOSE to contact you for further information, and confirm your understanding that the provision of information on this form does not establish a client-attorney relationship between you and NCOSE.

Disclaimer: The Law Center cannot guarantee legal representation to every injured person with a potential legal claim and the submission of this questionnaire does not create an attorney client relationship. Except in situations directly related to litigation the Law Center generally cannot assist with record expungement requests.

Did someone upload sexually explicit videos of you without your knowledge or consent?

Are you a victim of sexual abuse and/or assault?

Were you ever forced, coerced, pressured, or tricked into performing paid sex acts?

Have you been harmed physically, psychologically, professionally, or in your personal relationships due to exposure to hardcore pornography?

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