Revenge porn – when consent is denied & trust betrayed

by Fiona Harper

Revenge porn wears many sordid faces. Known as image-based abuse (IBA) by those who prosecute cyber crimes, revenge porn refers to sharing of intimate, nude or sexual material without consent. The threat of sharing compromising videos and photos also counts as IBA.

This is a travel website so why are we writing about consent, trust and revenge porn you might ask?

It’s not a topic I anticipated writing about.  Nor is it an easy story to write. Travel writing is my thing not social commentary. But like any self-respecting travel story, this one has its fair share of tropical Fijian beaches. There are sun-kissed bodies, palm trees and yachts dotted against a tropical island backdrop.

In fact, there is a travel element to this story. It starts with photographs taken in Fiji of an Australian woman by a Canadian photographer which were uploaded to a swingers sex site hosted in New Zealand with a UK parent company by said photographer sitting in South Australia after saying goodbye to this Queensland based writer. Crossing multiple national borders, this is far from the usual travel story you’ll read in a tourism brochure.

Consent and Trust

The problems started after I discovered a photo of my naked body on a swingers hook-up site, which had been uploaded by Devita (not his real name), a former partner. Devita claimed to have made a career out of being a photojournalist and photographer so it was quite the surprise to discover him defying the issue of consent.  Using my naked body to solicit others for sexual liaisons, he shared photos and drawings with the site’s 100,000+ members without asking for, nor receiving, my consent.

Besides being a monumental betrayal of trust between two consenting adults formerly in a relationship, IBA is a serious crime. Australian laws’ Enhancing Online Safety Act 2015 applies when one or other of the people impacted is an Australian and  states that

“A person who posts, or threatens to post, an intimate image without the consent of the person depicted in the image may be liable to a civil penalty.”

One in five Australians have experienced IBA according to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner. Women are more likely to be targeted than men. According to The Guardian, in one month alone (January 2017) Facebook logged more than 51,000 potential ‘sextortion’ reports resulting in 14,000 accounts being deactivated.

READ THE CAIRNS POST ARTICLE – REPUBLISHED BY THE DAILY MAIL

When Revenge Porn is used for personal gain

I was mortified to discover my naked body being used to elicit hook-ups for threesomes, straight, oral and outdoor sex, masturbation and exhibitionism. It wasn’t about the sexual pleasures sought – whatever floats your boat baby, it’s your call. But if you’re going to involve me you’ll need my consent. What really disturbed me was the unauthorised use of a naked photo of me featured on his profile, implying my consensual sharing of the image. Other images were uploaded to private groups within the site. How many members had downloaded or screen-grabbed the photos? I’ll never know. The digital stain is virtually impossible to erase.

The weeks following this discovery passed in a sleepless fog of stunned stupor as I processed this betrayal of trust.

Initially I was angry. Nay, furious. Before long, fury turned to disbelief. Which only depressed and then saddened me. Talking to friends, hearing of their own experiences as victims of revenge porn and other toxic behavior, I despaired.

But I was also gratified to hear from those who have the love and support of a partner with honesty and integrity, which ultimately gives me hope. It took the best part of a year to work through the fallout and learn to trust others again.


Defining Consent and Trust

But let’s get back to consent and trust. The Oxford Dictionary defines consent as:

‘permission for something to happen or an agreement to do something.’

The definition of trust is pretty clear too:

‘firm belief in the reliability, truth or ability of someone or something.’

While revenge porn is often about malicious intent, to deliberately harm, humiliate, embarrass or intimidate someone, it’s not always quite so spiteful. Sometimes it’s more about the perpetrator viewing their victim as little more than a prop to be used for their own personal gratification. But disrespect for another human, particularly one that you once cared for, is no excuse.

Online dating and trust

Devita and I met online in a sailors forum back in early 2017 when I advertised for a Travel Writers Plus One. Initial conversations as we got to know each other revolved around mutual trust. He was living onboard his yacht in Fiji, I was living in Australia. Trusting that I hadn’t fallen for a classic Nigerian scam, I flew to Fiji for our first date. It wasn’t a scam, we hit it off and romance bloomed, then plunged and re-blossomed again over the next two years.

Both creative people (he a photographer, me a writer), we collaborated on creative content projects. We also collaborated on the occasional tasteful nude photo shoot in which I was a consenting participant. At the time of our personal breakup we were working on a book project we’d conceived while sailing to Fiji’s Lau Islands in 2017 and 2018.

When we called an end to the personal relationship Devita asked what he should do with ‘the nudes’.

‘I trust you that they won’t appear anywhere they shouldn’t,’ I said to him.

He nodded in agreement.

Within a week he had joined a swingers hook up site and was uploading images and drawings of my naked body. Though it would be another two weeks before I discovered this.

When I called out Devita’s deceit in a private email to him he offered a curt two word apology. Then he swiftly claimed to be a victim of malicious intent when I outed his lack of personal and professional ethics publicly.

His justification for sharing photos of my naked body without consent was that it uploaded to a members only site. A site that had over 100,000 members last time I looked.

‘it was posted on a private password protected site and I was careful not to show your face’

The irony is that the photo he used for his swingers profile is actually a beautiful image, worthy of gracing my living room wall.

But this is not a story about art. It’s about consent and trust. And the far-reaching consequences and damage caused when one is denied and the other is betrayed.

Is there a lesson to be learnt?

One friend reminded me that if I hadn’t allowed these photos to be taken they wouldn’t have been shared. True. When you date a photographer it’s inevitable that their lens will be pointed at you (admittedly, mostly when fully clothed). It’s the same when you date a writer – you’ll provide inspiration for and likely appear in the copy. In the publishing of this story, I give you Exhibit A.

If you’ve been a victim of revenge porn there are supportive avenues to seek help in the links above. Australian police take  this shit very seriously.

If, on the other hand, you’re tempted to become a perpetrator and share compromising material with consent, just don’t. The harm you do is far-reaching.

Fiona Harper is an Australian freelance travel writer. The images used on this page have been sourced from Upsplash and shared with the creators consent.

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16 comments

Seriously February 13, 2019 - 9:18 pm

So you hacked his website and shared the one and only image used, which is not pornographic and does does not show your face ! The images were taken in public areas with your consent and offered back to you ! Seriously – what are you after ? This is a joke …

Fiona Harper February 13, 2019 - 11:11 pm

Thank you Seriously Confused for your opinion. You sound a little confused about consent in relation to your ‘friend’ so please allow me to clarify: “permission for something to happen or an agreement to do something’. Consent was given to take the photos, it’s true. There was no permission or agreement given to share the photos with anyone beyond the photographer and the subject. In fact there was an explicit agreement not to, but I appreciate your concern and hope your confusion is allayed.

Ally February 20, 2019 - 5:01 pm

Is this illlegal ? I’d have thought you need to go through the proper channels rather than push someone’s identity into the limelight without evidence of any criminal act. Relationships often end messily and this recent trend of women portraying and over egging their ‘victimhood’ all over the internet might be seen as detracting from serious crimes such as rape and domestic violence. The term ‘bunny boiler’ springs to mind.

Fiona Harper February 20, 2019 - 6:50 pm

Thanks Alison for your opinion, and yes you are right, non-consensual sharing of intimate images is illegal. QLD Law recently passed it into legislation https://bit.ly/2RYXYzf. There are indeed ‘proper channels’ like ACORN to report cyber crimes such as this and I recommend anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation to contact ACORN. Am not sure how reporting crimes, or writing about it, amounts to ‘victimhood’ but each to their own.

Ab February 13, 2019 - 8:48 pm

Are you looking for fame or money or both ? You are a fake, that causes women who are true victims to be dismissed. I call bullshit and hidden agendas !!!

Fiona Harper February 13, 2019 - 10:59 pm

Thank you for your opinion Ab – is that your real name or are you posting behind a fake one? Hmmm Pot? Kettle? Black?

bmalzard January 29, 2019 - 3:25 pm

Oh Fiona, if we only had crystal balls to predict the future and sort the wheat from the chaff! What a selfish, despicable tool your sad sack ex is to be so cruel and creepy. He has invaded and abused your privacy and let’s hope he gets his due – sooner rather than later. Your post is a timely warning to remind women that trust is fragile, another thing he has broke. Stay strong and move above this.

Fiona Harper January 29, 2019 - 3:37 pm

Indeed Bev, trust is fragile and I sure didn’t anticipate it being abused so readily. Need to polish up that crystal ball!

Julie Hammond January 26, 2019 - 1:19 pm

So sorry that this has happened to you Fiona. The betrayal I can imagine cuts deep. I admire your bravery to talk about this which is ultimately helping those who don’t have the courage or too ashamed to speak up. Don’t allow this man to let you lose faith either. Beautifully written xx

Fiona Harper January 26, 2019 - 8:45 pm

This wasn’t am easy piece to write from the depths of despair I felt at his betrayal – thank you for your kind words x

Baz Gadhvi January 24, 2019 - 8:04 am

That’s awful Fiona. Despicable selfish actions. Shows no respect for you at all. Beautifully written piece.

Fiona Harper January 24, 2019 - 8:57 am

Thank you Baz, appreciate you taking the time to read & comment

Briar's Travel Beat January 23, 2019 - 10:43 am

Oh Fiona, how despicable of Devita. I am so sorry for you, what a traumatic experience. But how brave of you to be so honest and share your experience so that others can be aware. Sending love and best wishes. xx

Fiona Harper January 23, 2019 - 10:58 am

Thank you Briar, Sadly when this sort of thing happens, most of us are totally unaware x

MichelleB January 22, 2019 - 6:08 pm

Fiona you are one of the most incredible human beings I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, working with, and becoming friends with. Your courage and bravery publishing this article further demonstrates how exceptional you are. I was literally speechless when I learned of this despicable act and betrayal and can only trust that Madam Karma is going to visit Devita, and soon. Lots of love to you my solid brave friend x

Fiona Harper January 22, 2019 - 8:08 pm

Thank you Michelle for your support & kind words, which mean a lot. This is soooo not the story I wanted to write x

Comments are closed.

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