New law doesn’t blame victims of revenge porn so neither should we

Monday 3rd of July 2017: Edinburgh, Scotland. TOUGH PENALTIES FOR SHARING INTIMATE IMAGES
A new law which will make it easier for people to be prosecuted for sharing intimate images without consent will come into force on Monday 03 July 2017.

L-R Campaign supporters. Sarah Jane Lothian, Jordan Dermott, Emily Macintosh, Robert Kilmurry, Paola Tisi
 
A hard-hitting campaign will run from Monday to make people across Scotland aware that those convicted could face up to five years in prison. 
 A group of young people will gather to launch the campaign standing together in support of the new law, holding images wrapped in crime tape, to communicate the message that it���s never acceptable to share or threaten to share images without consent.
Monday 3rd of July 2017: Edinburgh, Scotland. TOUGH PENALTIES FOR SHARING INTIMATE IMAGES A new law which will make it easier for people to be prosecuted for sharing intimate images without consent will come into force on Monday 03 July 2017. L-R Campaign supporters. Sarah Jane Lothian, Jordan Dermott, Emily Macintosh, Robert Kilmurry, Paola Tisi A hard-hitting campaign will run from Monday to make people across Scotland aware that those convicted could face up to five years in prison. A group of young people will gather to launch the campaign standing together in support of the new law, holding images wrapped in crime tape, to communicate the message that it���s never acceptable to share or threaten to share images without consent.
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Feminists and activists have long argued that violence against women is never the victim’s fault. We’ve done so against every other powerful influence within society, many of whom are often arguing the exact opposite. The media especially can be quick to jump on this, coining catchy headlines which wrongly suggest that the victim got what they deserved, that they were somehow “asking for it”.

We’re told that these headlines and stories are just how the media works, it’s meant to be eye-catching, you see, and it sells the papers. Black inking that does nothing except endorse harmful ideas that a slim majority of Scots already believe and invites others to think the same.

“What was she wearing?” “Had she been drinking?” “She provoked him.” “Why doesn’t she just leave?” “She shouldn’t have taken the pictures in the first place.”

These dangerous attitudes don’t just dominate headlines, they seep into courtrooms, classrooms, staff rooms and living rooms. They are the norm.

There is no cause without effect, and the impact of these attitudes is far reaching. These attitudes stop women from asking for help for fear that their reaching out will be greeted with blame and shame.

These attitudes keep women from reporting sexual violence and domestic abuse. These attitudes make us obsess over the behaviour, clothing and alcohol consumption of the victim. The one responsible escapes all scrutiny.

Because that is who is missing from this conversation, isn’t it? The perpetrator: the person who chooses to inflict harm, who chooses to terrorise his victim, the one who hurts her, hits her, controls her, and manipulates her. The person invisible here is the one who breaks the law and chooses to share, or threaten to share, her intimate images.

So-called “revenge porn” has nothing to do with revenge and everything to do with power, control and humiliation. In the context of domestic abuse, a perpetrator uses intimate images to establish and maintain control over his victim. By threatening to show intimate pictures or videos of his partner to her friends, family, community or even the public, the abuser traps her and manipulates her. A choice between the potential shame and humiliation of having your most private images shared beyond your control or compliance is no choice at all.

An abuser has been led to believe that women’s bodies are there for his consumption, for his pleasure and for him to do with as he wishes. Society – including the media – has taught him this, and his invisibility has shielded him from consequence and condemnation.

But now the spotlight is on him.

From July, a new law in Scotland means that anyone who shares or threatens to share someone else’s intimate images or videos without their consent could face up to five years in prison. Those who choose to take a path of abusive behaviour may soon face consequences.

The new law and accompanying Scottish Government awareness-raising campaign are indeed progress, we hope, but alone they cannot fix a problem on the scale of the one we face.

Intimate images shared between consenting adults are not the problem. The problem is perpetrators who abuse their power, breach the victim’s trust and share images without the victim’s consent, no matter their motivation. The problem is a society that looks at male violence and endorses his behaviour by asking what women could and should have done differently.

There is still a long way to go; victim blaming runs deep into each crevice and cranny of our communities. In a world where women’s rights are too often ignored, attacked, and violated, it is easy to think personal action and activism unworthy (and ineffective?). But in truth, it is on each and every one of us to challenge it, change it and channel our energies towards a more equal Scotland for all.

Brenna Jessie, is external affairs officer at Scottish Women’s Aid. For further information, visit notyourstoshare.scot