Protect Your Child From Revenge Porn

Revenge porn, sextortion, morphing – all frightful realities of the cyber world from which our children need to be protected. Here are some tips for parents.

By Dr Debarati Halder

Protect Your Child From Revenge Porn

When 18-year-old Swati* was informed by her friends about her explicit photographs doing rounds on Instagram, she was left speechless. These were the photographs she had sent to her boyfriend.

"Without my knowledge, he showed those photos to students from another school. The boys then contacted me and sought sexual favours. My friends started asking me about it," said Swati, who goes to a reputed city school.

- The Times of India (17 Jan 2018)

Incidents like this are on the rise today causing a lot of concern to parents. With children spending most of their time in the virtual world, it is essential that we protect them from the dangers and snares that come with the use of technology.

Way back in 2009, I was contacted by some women who wanted help regarding ‘some fake profiles’ that were created on Facebook. These profiles were no ordinary fake profiles. They were created by people who knew the victims and had set up these profiles specifically to harass these women as revenge for ‘getting dumped’. That was when I understood the term ‘revenge porn’ and how it affects women and girls. In an article titled, ‘Revenge Porn by Teens in the United States and India: A Socio-Legal Analysis’ written by Debarati Halder and Jaishankar K, published in the International Annals of Criminology (2013) revenge porn is defined thus - “An act whereby the perpetrator satisfies his anger and frustration for a broken relationship through publicising false, sexually provocative portrayal of his/her victim, by misusing the information that he may have known naturally and that he may have stored in his personal computer, or may have been conveyed to his electronic device by the victim herself, or may have been stored in the device with the consent of the victim herself; and which may essentially have been done to defame the victim.” 

With this elaborate definition of revenge porn, let us try to understand more about this malevolent act.

How does one commit revenge porn?

  1. The victim may herself share her image with the perpetrator or consent to ‘getting clicked’ by him. This may later be misused as revenge porn material. Most of the time, we get to see nude/semi-nude images which are used as revenge porn material. This may be a consequence of sharing images or consenting to being photographed in a compromising position.
  2. The harasser may also use profile pictures or any other picture of the victim. In some cases, no pictures may be used at all and the harasser may use text to show that the victim is of loose morals.

In the first case, I often get to see a direct connection between sexting, revenge porn and sextortion as the pictures sent in good faith may be used as revenge porn material or may also be used for sextortion, to threaten the victim in lieu of money or more nude/semi-nude pictures.

About the victim

As a result of the recent obsession with selfies among teenagers, they are more liable to fall victims to revenge porn. A teenager may be targeted by her jealous classmates, her ex-boyfriend or even an unknown friend on social media who may be victimising her because she stopped communicating with him when she realised the dangers of online relationships. Often, teenagers get to know they are being victimised when the harasser starts spreading her pictures (morphed or otherwise) among her friends on social media platforms or tags her in the pictures or sends her a link. Here are certain tips on how to protect teenagers from falling victims to revenge porn:

How to prevent it

  1. As parents, you need to control what pictures your child shares on social media. Images containing only the child (and no one else) should not be posted because these images can be misused by perpetrators. It is better to post group photos or photos showing children with adult guardians and caregivers. Similarly, she must also be made aware of the risks involved in sharing images digitally.
  2. In case your child has shared her picture with strangers, do not reach out to strangers and demand they delete it from their device. This act may create more problems. Instead, try to find out the history of communication. Neither the Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), nor the Information Technology Act, 2000 (amended in 2008), nor the Indian Penal Code define and recognise revenge porn as a separate offence. But, POCSO can definitely help if the communication history shows that the child was contacted by the stranger for grooming or was being stalked or the image was taken as a part of grooming. S.11 and S.12 of the POCSO Act may help in such cases.

In the unfortunate circumstance when your child has fallen victim to revenge porn, here are a few things you can do.

How to help cope with it

  1. In case of revenge porn victimisation, parents must not hesitate to contact the police. Ask your teenager, if there was any indication in the communication with the harasser that she was being used or threatened. I have seen that many victims were told by their harassers that the pictures will be uploaded in XXX sites or porn sites. Also, ask her if she was specifically asked to send nude/semi-nude pictures. POCSO offers provisions for punishing offenders who use photographs of children for pornographic purposes, even if not for revenge porn.
  2. In case, pictures have been captured without consent and are being used to create revenge porn content, (including bathing pictures, images taken from odd angles, images of private body parts) one may refer to S.67B (punishment for using the child for creating, producing, etc. of child pornography) and 66E (punishment for infringement of privacy) of the Information Technology Act, 2000(Amended in 2008) read with S.354C IPC (voyeurism) and S.13 & 14 of the POCSO Act. Also, the Indian Penal code offers provisions for criminal intimidation (S.503), defamation (S.499) or harming the modesty of women (S.509). All these laws can be used to address the issue.
  3. In case your child is being harassed on a social media platform in relation to revenge porn, you must at once report the matter to the social media group concerned. They are duty-bound to take it down and take precautionary action to restrict circulation of such images in future. If they fail, you must consider taking the social media group to court for failing to take down the content.

We, as parents, must understand that acting rationally will work best when addressing issues of revenge porn. This will also encourage the child not to take drastic measures because she is embarrassed by the issue.

Dr Debarati Halder is the Honorary Managing Director of the Centre for Cyber Victim Counselling (www.cybervictims.org). She is also working as Professor & Head of the Department of Research, Unitedworld School of Law, Karnavati University, Gandhinagar, Gujarat. She can be reached at ccvcindia@gmail.com

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