Call for ‘revenge porn’ victims to be kept anonymous – My Thoughts

I agree that victims should be given a choice whether to remain anonymous or be seen in the public eye

15 December 2015
Keeley Richards-Shaw
Image captionKeeley Richards-Shaw said a change in law was crucial to help victims “keep their personal life personal”

Victims of “revenge porn” should be given the same anonymity as victims of other sexual offences, campaigners say.  A petition urging a change in law has been launched by the Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, Julia Mulligan, and a revenge-porn victim. Keeley Richards-Shaw, whose ex-boyfriend was the first sentenced under the revenge-porn law, said media coverage had increased her distress.

The Ministry of Justice said judges had discretionary powers to withhold names. Sharing revenge-porn images and videos became a crime in England and Wales in February, but the law currently gives victims no right to anonymity.

Mrs Mulligan and Ms Richards-Shaw have written to Justice Secretary Michael Gove and the chairman of the Justice Select Committee, Bob O’Neill, requesting meetings on the issue. They have also launched an online petition called Change the Law: No More Naming of Revenge Porn Victims.

‘From bad to worse’

Ms Richards-Shaw told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme she had become involved in the campaign after her ex-boyfriend shared intimate photos he had taken without her knowledge. He was prosecuted and given a suspended jail sentence.

She said a change in law was crucial to help victims “keep their personal life personal”.

During the court case, she had told just very close family – but the day before he was to be sentenced, she received a text message saying the press were planning to cover the story .

“It just went from bad to worse,” she said. “My picture, my name, my job, they’d gone on my Facebook page and published that, they were waiting for me outside court, I had them at my doorstep the next morning. It was horrible – I had gone from being stalked by him to being stalked by the media.”

Mrs Mulligan said there was a loophole, as “revenge porn” seemed to have been categorised as a domestic abuse offence as opposed to a sexual offence.

“If you looked at it in the sexual offences category when the law was being passed, then they may have thought about anonymity.

“We really want ministers to listen to what Keeley has to say and to change the law.”

She added that some of the media had said they would not publish victims’ names, but this was not automatic.

‘Not tolerated’

The law classes “revenge porn” as “photographs or films which show people engaged in sexual activity or depicted in a sexual way or with their genitals exposed, where what is shown would not usually be seen in public”.

It covers images shared on and offline without the subject’s permission and with the intent to cause harm. Physical distribution of images is also covered. A Ministry of Justice official said: “Revenge porn is an abuse of trust that can leave people feeling humiliated and degraded.

“By making it a specific offence, we have sent a clear message that this crime will not be tolerated and we have already seen an increase in the number of people coming forward.

“It is vital that victims have the confidence to report cases. That is why judges have discretionary powers to prohibit the naming of victims if identification would affect the case and cause undue fear or distress.”

My Thoughts – As a Survivor of Revenge Porn

I wasn’t given a choice when I was exposed publicly by my ex-partner Thomas Samuel, in 2014.

The Bristol Evening Post ensured that my name was in the public domain when they ran the article after Thomas Samuel’s court appearance.

At first I wasn’t aware that this had happened until I was alerted by a friend via Facebook Messenger, the day after his court appearance. So not only had I been publicly shamed because explicit photos of me was shared without my consent, the local media very carelessly reporting news, thought that they would feed the public’s curiosity by naming me.

For me there are two-sides to every coin:

At first I wanted to hide, run away and at times wished I had never taken Thomas Samuel to court. I stopped eating, stressed out that everyone knew about me. If I ventured to the shops I would wear a disguise so that no one could recognise me. I become withdrawn, depressed and hid away from friends, family and the public. It felt like the whole world was looking and pointing at me.

Then on the other hand because the Bristol Evening Post had publicly named me, I was made aware that my explicit photos were now on porn sites, which I would not have been aware of if I had not been named. I was then able to inform the police and find a way to have the photos removed.

I then think about my journey and feel that if I hadn’t been named publicly then I would not have had the opportunities that have been opened to me or the thought of revenging my perpetrator by setting up this website, sharing my story and helping others to stand up and speak out about revenge porn. I do however believe that the new revenge porn law should give victims a choice.

You can sign the petition here: Revenge Porn Victims Anonymity Petition

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