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7 Things You Can Do If You’re a Victim of Deepfakes or Revenge Porn

By March 11, 2019 No Comments
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Many victims of revenge porn or deepfakes feel powerless. They’re repeatedly exploited each time these abusive images are viewed or shared, yet the idea of removing them from the vast sea of the internet seems impossible.

If this horrific reality is something you’ve experienced, you’re not alone, and you have options.

The reality of revenge porn and deepfakes

The Cyberbulling Research Center defines revenge porn as “the act of distributing intimate photography through different means without the individual’s consent. While revenge is not always the motivating factor, this act seems to be increasingly utilized by the perpetrator as retaliation for romantic relationships going south, and is becoming more and more prominent with the growing popularity of sexting.”

Related: Revenge Porn: Is It A New Form Of Digital Sex Slavery?

Now illegal in 41 U.S. states, this is a relatively new phenomenon is also shockingly common. In fact, a 2017 Australian survey suggested that one in five people had nude or sexually explicit images distributed without their consent.

By contrast, with deepfakes porn, the faces of celebrities or ordinary people are grafted onto pre-existing pornographic content. Consumers can even custom order videos of virtually anyone—like co-workers or ex-partners—without their consent. These fake videos often look indistinguishably real.

Related: AI Tools Are Making It Possible To Create Fake Porn Videos Of Almost Anyone

Charlotte Laws—author and former politician who led a successful campaign to criminalize revenge porn after someone posted nude photos of her teenage daughter—says, “The distress of deepfakes is as bad as revenge porn. They are realistic, and their impact is compounded by the…world we’re living in.”

In a recent survey of 500 female revenge porn victims, she found that 12% were also targets of deepfakes. Clearly, these violations of privacy overlap.

What to do if you’re a victim of nonconsensual porn

These forms of non-consensual porn are profoundly painful violations of dignity, intimacy, and trust. Many victims feel out of control, helpless, even suicidal, and suffer similar trauma as sexual assault survivors.

If this is your story and you’re at a loss for what to do next, we invite you to take comfort in the following options.

1. Connect with online organizations who support survivors

The Cyber Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI) provides a 24-hour crisis hotline, attorney referrals, and a detailed guide for removing your photos from large social media platforms and porn websites.

The website for the Digital Millennium Copyright Act can also help take down your images.

2. Take your case to law enforcement or hire an attorney

Eri Kim, senior clinical director at Safe Horizon, a nonprofit organization that provides services for survivors of sexual trauma, says you should approach this option strategically and consider how your former partner might retaliate if you’re a victim of revenge porn.

Related: 14-Year-Old Girl Sues Facebook For Failing To Remove Revenge Porn

And for deepfakes, the Electronic Frontier Foundation notes that it’s possible to sue for defamation or for portraying a victim in “false light,” or to file a “right of publicity” claim alleging that deepfakes makers profited from your image without permission.

Jennifer Rothman, author and professor at Loyola Law School, predicts that most judges would more easily rule in favor of the victim in deepfakes cases—especially if he or she isn’t a celebrity or public figure.

Related: Woman Awarded $6.45 Million In Revenge Porn Case

Be aware that you may face hurdles. Lawsuits can be pricey, and laws like Section 230 protect website operators legally from what users post on their sites. But there have been significant improvements in revenge porn cases in the past five years, and there’s hope for continual progress.

3. Record evidence of your abuse

Keep a thorough record of the evidence proving videos and images were shared without your consent. Keep screenshots of all the websites or social media platforms where you’ve found your private images shared or manipulated photos, every takedown request you’ve submitted online, and conversations with the individual regarding them posting explicit images of you without your consent.

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4. Cope with the psychological effects of your abuse

Even just the process of trying to remove revenge porn from internet can be traumatizing for victims. Developing strong coping skills to deal with the repercussions of your exploitation is a key part of moving forward.

Contact a crisis helpline to help you find a therapist who specializes in sexual trauma. This comprehensive guide from the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) can help you find a therapist who’s a good fit for you.

5. Remember that this isn’t your fault

The trauma of having your private images and videos made public without your consent may lead you to believe that no one in your life can be trusted, or that what happened to you is your fault.

Victim-blaming, whether imposed by others or your own self-dialogue—is harmful and won’t help you heal and move forward. Be kind to yourself, and surround yourself with people who will show you compassion, too.

6. Focus on what you do have control over

It may be difficult not to obsess over who has seen your images are videos, but these thoughts may send you down a dark spiral.

Instead, focus on what you can do. Review your options, and use the resources available to you. You’ll feel yourself slowly regaining control and piecing yourself back together as you develop confidence in yourself and in those who are there to help you.

7. Take precautions for the future

Even if you are in a healthy relationship, cell phones, apps, or websites that appear secure can easily be hacked by someone other than your intimate partner. The reality is, there’s really no full-proof “safe” method for sexting. If you wouldn’t feel comfortable having an image posted online, it may not be worth the risk of sending it.

Sexual exploitation is never acceptable

No matter the circumstances or what our porn-saturated culture deems as normal, the exploitation of another human being is never acceptable—whether those images are “real” or digitally engineered.

It may be discouraging to live in a world where there’s a demand for non-consensual porn of real people, but there’s also hope for the future.

Victims can be empowered survivors who speak out about their experiences and fight for change. Each of us can help stop the demand for exploitative content, and expose the industry that normalizes and fuels their abuse.

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