The normalization of sexting is fueling the rise of revenge porn cases, and the rise of revenge porn is causing a ripple effect of damage in our society.

It’s 2018, and everyone and anyone has access to smartphones and social media at an increasingly younger age.

Sure, there are perks to this, like easy communication between friends and families, and other such luxuries that come with having the world wide web and about a gazillion apps available to download at the press of a button. But these much-loved smart devices also help make possible the reality of sexting—and with it—revenge porn.

Revenge porn, or nonconsensual image sharing, has been defined as when someone shows, sends, or posts explicit/intimate photos or videos of someone else without the consent of the person pictured.

Sometimes couples create these images with and of each other, and unfortunately, revenge porn can happen when the relationship turns south. In other cases, images may be created without the person’s consent or willingness to share the image—such as when someone is secretly photographed or taped, or when their computer gets hacked and private information and images stolen.

Whatever the case, revenge porn is becoming more prevalent—especially with our generation and the next, where sexting is basically the new form of flirting.

Here are 8 need-to-know facts about revenge porn in our sexting-obsessed society.

1. Revenge porn affects anyone, not just celebrities.

Revenge porn started to make headlines a few years ago when celebrities like Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, and Mischa Barton had their intimate photos were hacked and shared with the world. Let’s also not forget about Rob Kardashian posting explicit images of his ex-fiancée and baby mama Blac Chyna last year—so not cool.

While celeb revenge porn tends to make the headlines, it’s important to remember that its victims aren’t always in the spotlight. More often than not, victims of revenge porn are everyday people who have had their trust betrayed or privacy hacked.

2. Sexting is prevalent among teens, tweens, and everything in between.

Not only are instances of revenge porn on the rise, it is prevalent in the lives of many of today’s teens and young adults.

A recent study showed that roughly 1 in 25 online Americans have either had explicit images of them shared without their permission, or have had someone threatened to post them. The same study also revealed that young people ages 15-29 are more likely to report being threatened, with 1 in 14 internet users under the age of 30 experiencing some form of revenge porn. Yikes.

So why the widespread revenge porn among the youth of today? The obvious answer: more sexting, more revenge porn.

A recent study found that at least 27% of teens are receiving sexts while almost 15% are sending them. A different study found that more than 1 in 10 teens are forwarding these sexts without consent, and roughly 1 in 12 teens reported having had sexts they sent shared without their permission. Crazy, right?

3. There are more revenge porn reports from the LGBTQ community.

Sexting and revenge porn can happen at any age, no matter your age, gender, sexual orientation, or any other diversifying factor. However, a recent study found that LGBTQ internet users were far more likely to have had experienced threats of nonconsensual image-sharing. Not cool.

Among these findings, those who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, 15% reported having had someone threaten to share a nude or nearly-nude photo of them, which is a far higher rate than heterosexual internet users (2%).

While it is not clear exactly why this it, it just goes to show that no matter who someone is, they can fall victim to revenge porn.

4. Many who share nonconsensual images don’t understand how they’re hurting the victim.

There is so much porn out there that its consumers can’t exactly know what was consensually created or which was an act of revenge porn. Nonconsensual images flood pornography sites in a way that makes it nearly impossible to know if the person in the image gave consent or not.

In this survey, 1 in 20 social media users admitted to having shared a sexually graphic image of another person without their permission. The vast majority (79%), however, said that they had no intention of hurting the victim; they just wanted to share the image with a friend.

Whether or not the intent of furthering the damage of revenge porn was there, sharing the still furthers the damage that revenge porn can have on its victim. Don’t be that person.

5. Revenge porn is the new norm—and it shouldn’t be.

Perhaps one of the major reasons we have revenge porn today is its widespread acceptance. A recent study at the University of Kent showed a shocking 99% of people surveyed expressed an approval of revenge porn being posted online, especially when they were presented with a scenario about a partner walking out on them. The study was clear to point out that not everyone has a regular desire to publish revenge porn, but more than of 87% of respondents expressed an excitement or amusement toward it.

While the study found that only 29% of participants said that they would ever post revenge porn, it is still an insanely concerning indicator of how our culture views the serious effects of revenge porn on its victims—in that, they don’t.

6. Revenge porn-sharing has turned into a sick sport.

It’s unacceptable enough that so many people participate in revenge porn without the chilling fact that, in some cases, it’s treated like a sport or game.

Recently, we came out with an article about students from 71 high schools being targeted in a huge revenge porn-sharing group in Australia. And it’s happening with teens in the Netherlands, too.

Here is how this sick, degrading game works: young guys would use the site to nominate a specific high school or region they were wanting photos from, including the full names of the girls they are “hunting.” Once a girl’s name appears on a list, other members of the group “contribute” by posting more information about the girl, such as the name of her school, her phone number, social media accounts, and even her home address.

The members of the group then post images of the girls in question, sometimes bartering and trading images for more sought-after images. In one case, for instance, one user offered to trade up to 300 nude images of other victims, in exchange for a single nude photo of one girl he was incessantly “hunting.”

Some estimates indicate that there are more than 2,000 nonconsenting image sharing sites on the internet, meaning there is plenty of supply to meet the high demand for this type of content.

7. The law hasn’t kept up with technology.

Laws in this area are a little outdated (or nonexistent), with only 38 states in the U.S. actually criminalizing “revenge porn” and other types of nonconsensual pornography in some way.

In most cases, revenge porn is considered a misdemeanor, earning the perpetrator a couple hundred dollars in fines and hours of community service. This punishment pales in comparison when you consider the emotional and reputational damage of its victims.

8. Sexual assault and revenge porn victims suffer similar mental health issues.

Studies have shown that there are startling similarities between sexual assault victims and victims of revenge porn. Overall, participants of the study experienced many disruptive mental health issues and negative coping mechanisms, such as denial, self-medicating, and depression. The victims also reported a general loss of trust in other people after the offense, with many going from being very trusting to rarely trusting anyone after they were betrayed by someone they loved.

Given that revenge porn shares many similarities with sexual assault and sexual harassment, it should come as no surprise that the revenge porn survivors in this study experienced many of the same mental health effects that sexual assault survivors experience. How can we be okay with living in a world where this is the norm?

Why This Matters

Revenge porn is not just a celebrity “scandal,” though celebrities can suffer just as much as any regular person who has been violated. It affects more and more people every day, creating victims out of everyday people and young adults, and is fueled the constant normalization and pressure of sexting.

The reality is that whenever sensitive material is sent to someone, no matter how trusting they appear to be, there’s always the huge possibility that image or video will be shared without consent. Remember that, next time you’re asked to press “send.”

Even if someone is “careful” by housing sensitive material on their own device, hacking is still a thing, and personal information and images can be stolen and shared. Participating in sharing a nonconsensual image helps fuel the demand for this type of content and helps make it a normal part of our society.

Be part of the change, and help us make not sexting or sharing revenge porn normal.

Get Involved

Send the facts, not nudes. The next time you’re thinking about a “harmless” exchange of imagery, carefully consider these stats before hitting send or asking for pics.

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