By definition, revenge porn is the "sexually explicit images of a person posted online without that person's consent especially as a form of revenge or harassment," according to Merriam Webster

Furthermore, these images and videos may be used to humiliate and blackmail people. According to Emma Sadlier who is the founder of the Digital Law Company that specialises in matters related to social media and the law in South Africa, revenge porn is not really about revenge. She says she sees more cases of extortion and slut shaming. 

Emma says that there is a trend internationally that aims to call revenge porn, image based violence, which seems more appropriate for the crime. 

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Locally, we have had a number of high profile women who have been publicly shamed when nude photos of themselves were shared online without their permission. 

In 2014, we saw the private nudes of Emma Watson, Jennifer Lawerence, Kate Upton and many more celebrities that were leaked on the internet by hackers after gaining access to their iCloud accounts. 

One of the people responsible for the leak pleaded guilty to the unauthorised access to a protected computer to obtain information, reports CBS New York.

According to CBS New York on the topic, Jennifer told Vanity Fair that the hack and the distribution of her images was not a scandal but rather a sex crime. Meaning that it was "a crime involving sexual assault or having a sexual motive" as defined by Dictionary. "Anybody who looked at those pictures, you’re perpetuating a sexual offense. You should cower with shame," she told Vanity Fair. 

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So why do people post other people's nudes on social media and why do other people participate by sharing these images or by liking them? Do we perhaps revel in the humiliation of others? 

According to a study published in 2017 by researchers at the University of Kent in the UK a shocking 87% of the participants showed excitement and approval of revenge porn. They also found that 99% of the participants showed some approval of revenge porn when presented with a break up scenario. So voyeurs were okay with revenge porn if it was done because of a break up. They interviewed one hundred people who were 18 years and older reports Broadly.

READ MORE: How to protect yourself against revenge porn

According to clinical psychologist Dr. David Ley in an article for Psychology Today some of the reasons his patients have given him for committing revenge porn include the following  

  • Some men have not yet grasped how small the world is now especially on social media and how easy it for those affected to be traced
  • Some men are simply "angry at all women" and want to take them all down. Dr. Ley believes that this reason is rare but in some high profile cases this is the most common reason. 
  • Shockingly, some men think that women will be excited or turned on by them sharing their naked pictures. "Many men believe that they would be turned on by the idea of a group of women looking at naked pictures of them, and they truly believe that a woman would experience this the same way." 

Revenge porn continues to be a problem and unfortunately the law is taking too long to catch up with this growing crime.

Emma says that there are two pieces of law that are currently before Parliament that "will criminalise the non-consensual distribution of images and videos." The first one is the Films and Publication Amendment Bill as well as the Cyber Crimes Bill, "both of those pieces of law will make it [revenge porn] a specific crime," she adds. 

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Since these bills have not yet been passed as law, people who are victims of revenge porn having the following legal remedies available to the them:

  • Emma says that you can lay crimen injuria charge against the person for seriously infringing on your dignity. "It is the same charge used in extreme racism cases like Vicki Momberg," she explains.
  • If someone has your nudes and they are threatening to leak them, you can get a protection order against that person using the Protection from Harassment Act or if you have been in a domestic relationship with someone you can get a protection order under the Domestic Violence Act. 
  • You can also sue the person for damages by opening a civil suit.

Revenge porn is a scary reality for many people and hopefully the law will catch up to help protect people and bring the perpetrators to justice.

WATCH: A victim of revenge porn tells their story

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