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What is Revenge Porn? A Primer for Parents

Words by
Jake Cutler

APR 11, 2023

What is Revenge Porn? A Primer for Parents

Technology is an amplifier. For good or bad, it takes human behavior and multiplies its effects. Revenge porn is a perfect, but especially harmful, example of this.

Sexual abuse and manipulation have been around probably as long as human beings have. But revenge porn—a malicious form of cyberbullying that involves the sharing of explicit images or videos without consent—is a technology-aided version of sexual abuse and it has serious consequences.

Revenge porn, sometimes called nonconsensual pornography, commonly comes into play when two people in an intimate relationship share explicit photos or videos then split up and one, or both, post those photos publicly as revenge. But other situations exist.

One partner might have possession of sensitive content and use that to manipulate their partner to do things they don’t want to do by threatening to share it publicly. In some instances, the explicit content might be obtained without the knowledge of the other partner, and then used to harm or manipulate. In all instances, it is a destructive act with consequences that can’t easily be undone.

Consequences of Revenge Porn

The consequences of revenge porn can be devastating for victims, both emotionally and physically. Victims of revenge porn can experience embarrassment, humiliation, emotional distress, anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts. Revenge porn can also have a significant impact on victims’ reputations and future opportunities at school, in a career, or in future relationships.

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It is just a more recent form of the larger sexual abuse problem that has been studies widely. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, victims of sexual abuse are four times more likely to develop symptoms of drug abuse, four times more likely to experience PTSD as adults, and three times more likely to have a major depressive episode as adults.

Is Revenge Porn Illegal?

Revenge porn laws vary. Forty-eight states currently have laws against revenge porn on the books (see this map from the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative to check laws in your state). Nonconsensual pornography is considered a form of sexual harassment and is charged as a felony or misdemeanor for first offenses, depending on the state. 

Additionally, revenge porn can be addressed through copyright law if the image in question was a selfie taken by the victim. In those cases, victims could sue for damages in addition to the criminal penalties.

It’s important to discuss revenge porn laws with children so they understand that nonconsensual pornography is a serious offense. Parents might also consider advocating for schools and communities to consider including revenge porn as part of their cyberbullying prevention programs. This can help raise awareness of the issue and ensure that children understand revenge porn is a crime.

What Can Parents Do?

Given these dangers, it’s vital for parents and guardians to discuss this issue with kids so they understand its consequences should they become involved in revenge porn either as a perpetrator or victim. Prevention is always better than repair so helping children understand that sharing explicit images, even with someone they currently trust, is opening the door to potentially devastating consequences.

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Every child is different so you’ll want to tailor your approach to your kid but here are some general tips to consider in an effort to protect kids from revenge porn:

  1. Establish open dialogue with your kids about sexting
  2. Monitor your kid’s online activity in appropriate ways
  3. Educate kids about the specific dangers of revenge porn 
  4. Report any incidents of revenge porn immediately 

Tools exist to help keep kids safe and public and private organizations are getting better at prioritizing the issue. But parents are ultimately responsible for protecting their children online. It’s essential to stay informed and take steps to ensure your kids are safe by educating them about revenge porn, establishing guidelines that work for your family, and reporting any incidents of revenge porn immediately.

By helping kids understand the dangers of revenge porn, parents can take a big step in allowing them to reap the benefits of today’s technology without exposing them to one of the big dangers.

Was there anything in this article that stood out to you? Anything we missed? Let us know in the comments.

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