Revenge Porn is Also Cyber Bullying, Celebrity Sex Tapes Still Bootlegged

The net has been inundated with reports of celebrity revenge porn sales to billion pound adult distributors i.e. bootlegged. Whilst most acknowledge that it's an embarrassing breach of privacy for the victims, why won't anyone mention that it's also cyber bullying?

 Photo credits: Yuichiro Chino; Getty Images

Photo credits: Yuichiro Chino; Getty Images

Most people will have heard of at least one report of a celebrity having an explicit sex tape leaked online to one of the many tube sites, adult entertainment distributors or directly to social media. Bootlegging has become an issue for high-profile celebrities who are looking to keep their private life private.

For example, the recent case involving Mischa Barton, where her ex is trying to sell a sex tape of theirs to an adult entertainment distributor. Even WWE have been feeling the heat for their lack of action when it came to the revenge porn incidents involving current and ex-WWE Divas. While it could be a career booster for 'tv personalities' who appear on Celebrity Big Brother and Geordie Shore, it's hardly the image The OC's teen dream girl or the family-friendly franchise WWE are going for.

We can all agree that this would be a nightmare for most celebrities, but what about those who aren't in the spotlight and don't have access to millions for legal battles?

There have been some tragic, life changing reports where revenge porn is concerned. For example, the report that came out of Italy back in September of last year in relation to Tiziana Cantone's suicide, after a video depicting her engaging in sex acts with her new lover was uploaded. It was reported that she sent it to small group of friends as well as her ex-lover to make him jealous. Clearly, this was a mistake. Not long after, the video ended up online and went viral. Her statement in the video "You're filming? Bravo" was printed as a slogan on merchandising, memes were made about the video and she gained an incredible amount of online attention through comments as well as being ridiculed and harassed in person.

It is known that Cantone was fighting a legal battle against the upload of the video; seeking to get it pulled down and eventually won with a 'right to be forgotten' ruling. Though, by this time the damage had already been done. She had moved to Tuscany and changed her legal name in an attempt to escape the unwanted attention. Unfortunately, the case left her with huge legal fees of up to €20,000. Unlike celebrity victims, it's unlikely that Cantone had the means to cover such a large amount of money. Falling victim to her depression as well as the revenge porn, Cantone was found dead shortly afterwards inside of her aunt's house. It was determined by the coroner to be a suicide. 

While many can learn a vital lesson from this case; in that you have to be extremely careful with who you share such content with, it also begs the question: is it acceptable to try and destroy another's life? That's essentially what you are trying to achieve, regardless of whether you would choose to see it that way or not. 

Then there are cases where the victims were not trying to aggravate anyone with such content or share it amongst others, in fact they weren't planning on letting anyone outside of their relationship see it. There have been numerous incidences where an individual was sharing an intimate moment with someone they loved and / or trusted and that trust was betrayed. From reading such reports and the detrimental impact its had on the victim's life, it was appalling to read so many comments from both sexes stating that "it's their fault for letting the person film them". I'm sure if they knew that the person was likely to leak or upload the video, they wouldn't have ever let them film their most intimate moments. More often than not, people create such videos with their respective partners, with whom there is a certain level of trust and affection. When the person then shares that information, whether it's online for the world to see or even with a friend or a bunch of friends, that's an instant breach of trust and a demonstration of a lack of respect for the victim. The fact is, many people take raunchy videos and photos of themselves either alone or with their partner and share it only between themselves without any issue. After all, it can be a fun way to build up anticipation and arousal before you see each other next or it can be a great reminder of that crazy afternoon or evening you had in the Bahamas. Afterwards, no-one expects to hear that their sex tape has been watched on PornHub by 10,000 people. 

Tales of such misery are often accompanied with examples of distasteful people looking to profit on the exploitation of others. Sick opportunists like Kevin Bollaert, who used blackmail and extortion as a means of obtaining cash from the victims of revenge porn. Luckily, Bollaert received a high sentence for his crimes but it will never undo the damage he has caused, nor alleviate the stress and trauma that the victims went through. You can read more about his case and sentencing here.

It's a serious matter that can and have cost people their jobs, relationships, confidence, happiness and in the worst case scenarios, their life. Luckily, something can be done. In the US it has been declared illegal to distribute 'revenge porn' in Washington DC and the first man is about to be sentenced under these new laws. Many states already have specific laws in place for revenge porn. It has also just been declared illegal under Navy and Marine Corps Law. More and more countries are introducing their own laws specifically for revenge porn cases. 

What's even more worrying, is that more and more teens are texting each other explicit messages, often being accompanied with a raunchy picture. As we know from our own school days, children can be incredibly cruel and rarely ever consider the consequences or long term effects of sharing such information or images with their friends. There have been numerous cases of such videos being shared around schools and ultimately making it impossible for those children to continue studying there.

Even worse than this was the horrific report of a 15 year old girl going missing in the US and being live streamed on Facebook being sexually assaulted by a group of boys. This is where cyber bullying meets sexual assault, a deadly cocktail that needs to be handled with care where the victim is concerned and with severity where the perpetrators are. The message for all adolescents needs to be clear, that cyber bullying and sexual assault are two things that will be deemed acceptable nor tolerated. Not only that, the seriousness of such actions is a message that needs to be reiterated.

The fact is, 'revenge porn' is a broad term for something that involves the breach of privacy and is related to content of a sexual nature. It can involve bootlegging, extortion, blackmail, cyber bullying, sexual harassment and assault. People need to be aware and careful when dealing with this subject matter, not to blanket it as just 'something B - Z list celebrities do to become more famous'. Or just the actions of 'attention seekers looking for their 5 minutes of fame'. While this may have been the case for a few, for many it is a gruelling experience that they did not and could not foresee. 

So what's the best approach to such incidents? If it happens to someone you know, hear them out, allow them to tell you how they feel. Support them, it's going to be emotionally taxing as it is, without any judgement on your part. Research and find out what steps can be taken in terms of getting the content offline as quickly as possible and look into your options where legal action is concerned. Also there a number of helplines becoming more available across various countries, so do look online for your local service.

If you are the victim, talk to the person you trust most for moral support and take the above steps to gain closure on the situation. You are not alone and you won't be expected to handle it alone. Even if you feel there aren't people you know personally that can help, there are dedicated teams of people, such as Citizens Advice or Victim Support that can you help to take the appropriate steps. 

 

Written by Brenda Adiyiah for Burn the Night

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