The Women Fighting the War on Revenge Porn

Originally in the Daily Telegraph

Anti revenge-porn avenger and activist is a more appropriate title for stay at home, mother of two Katelyn Bowden.After being notified that explicit photos of her had been posted on the revenge porn site Anon ib, she sat frozen and powerless as she read what strangers were commenting about her. The emotional turmoil that ensued inspired her to take action for other victims.  

“You think you hear everyone whispering behind your back. That loneliness is so deafening,” she says.

Like many other posters, the acquaintance who admitted to sharing the photos after stealing her ex boyfriends phone, included her name and workplace.

katelyn

“One of the most disturbing things was the men discussing my supposed sex life.

Someone would comment and be like ‘I’ll pay money to get pictures of that’ and in my head I’m thinking- ‘Is he putting a bounty on photos of me?’ What kind of crazy person might go out and just say ‘I’m gonna rape this girl for money,’? That is a really common thing and it’s terrifying.”

Katelyn lives in Ohio, one of 13 US states that has no laws against this online, predatory behaviour. Despite the confession, the man involved strolled from the police consequence free.

“That should be an open and shut case of sexual abuse. That’s what it felt like to me. I was so ashamed and depressed. Any time someone looked at me for too long I was just like ‘wow, ok they’ve seen me naked.” She says.

“In the month since its inception she has notified 350 girls and had their photos removed, learning to code and track down serial posters.”

Stock Photos- Close Up Of Person At Laptop Using Mobile Phone ID 52861854 © Monkeybusinessimages | Megapixl

In the US one in 25 people have been a victim of image based abuse. In Australia that statistic is quadrupled to 1 in 5 people, according to a study conducted by RMIT.

The terminology has even been changed from the more commonly known, ‘revenge porn,’ to combat the rampant culture of victim blaming that often accompanies these crimes.

With this week’s introduction of the Enhancing Online Safety Bill, maliciously clicking send on that private photo could mean more than just a moral bankruptcy.  People charged with sending explicit images without consent could now be fined up to $105,000 while corporations could face a fine of $525,000, in a bid to hold posters and content hosting platforms accountable.

Back in Ohio, where this expense falls only metaphorically on the photography subject, Katelyn is pushing for revenge porn to be made a federal crime. She’s created the group BADASS- Babes Against Demeaning and Abusive Selfie Sharing, who provide support for other victims and push for legal reform.

The group now has 530 members. In it’s first month of inception, Katelyn notified 350 girls and had their photos removed, and has learnt to code and track down serial posters.

katelyn 2Katelyn Bowden gives a radio interview in Ohio

When she discovered Australian women on the revenge porn site, including a niche category depicting indigenous pregnant women, she decided to reach out internationally.

*Caty Pitt, the 28year-old from Brisbane, is one such member who was notified about an image circulating revenge porn sites. The photo was four years old and accompanied by her details, resulting in a storm of men contacting her on social media. Caty has no idea who initially posted the image but was shocked to find the ensuing obsession with her personal life in the comment threads.

“They knew I had had my baby and at some stage they knew I was pregnant before I had even announced it, so that made me think it’s someone that I know. I was just like ‘how do these people know my life?” she says.

“I was shocked and then angry and frustrated because I wanted to know who it was, but for the life of me I wouldn’t be able to figure out who it is. “ she says. 

In the US one in 25 people have been a victim of image based abuse. In Australia that statistic is 1 in 5, according to a study conducted by RMIT.

Cyber security expert and consultant, Leonie Smith, also known as ‘The Cyber Safety Lady,’ says that removing pictures and shutting down revenge porn sites can be next to impossible.

“It’s like a game of ‘whack a mole.’ As soon as you get rid of one thing over here it pops up over there. It’s very difficult to shut down sites when you’ve got them happening in international locations that have different laws.“

She says that common amongst these illegally shared images are victims who aren’t even aware they are being photographed.

“People used to be called perverts and peeping toms, you were seen as the lowest scum of the earth. How has that perception changed to the point where we have 16 and 17 year old kids, high fiving and betting each other for photos, where it’s a badge of honour?” says Smith.

People charged with sending explicit images without consent could now be fined up to $105,000

Sites like Anon ib that put the ‘revenge,’ in revenge porn aren’t the only sites designed to shame and violate women. UK writer Gina Martin found herself a victim of ‘upskirting,’ a genre all of it’s own, where men take photos of girl’s crotches between their legs. After running with the incriminating phone to police at a music festival, she was told that these actions weren’t illegal.

gina

Now Gina is petitioning to get her case reopened and for laws that do nothing for victims and nothing to their violators, to be revised.

“We still live in a world where these types of men feel like they can have a woman’s body if they want it. If our justice system says a man taking pictures of a woman’s genitals without her consent isn’t illegal, then how can we expect change?”

Screen Shot 2018-01-05 at 10.41.22 pmGlobal War on Revenge Porn was the second feature I got published in the Telegraph, Katelyn Bowden reached out to me again personally to thank me for drawing attention to the issue and the way I covered her group. It’s been one of my proudest moments as a journalist.

Update: Gina has kept campaigning since the publication of this article and has since been successful in criminalising up-skirting.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s