If this has happened to you, you may be a victim of what is called "revenge porn".
What is revenge porn?
Revenge Porn refers to the electronic distribution of sexually graphic images or videos of someone without their consent.
In the age where smartphones are the norm, taking photos and videos regularly and communicating electronically, have now become very commonplace. During a sexual relationship parties may take or share photographs and videos of each other including nude or sexually graphic images.
However, when the relationship goes sour or the parties go their separate ways, the photos and/or videos may be shown to other people without the other's consent. This can be used as a tool of intimidation, blackmail and/or revenge. It can result in the infliction of hurt, pain and damage to the depicted person who did not give consent. Additionally, it can harm a person’s reputation and career and lead to embarrassment, public ridicule, depression and even suicide.
A person who is the victim of revenge porn can seek redress in Trinidad and Tobago.
On October 26th, 2015, the Honourable Justice Frank Seepersad delivered a landmark ruling in the case of Therese Ho v Lendl Simmons (Case Number: CV 2014-01949) at the High Court in Trinidad and Tobago. In this case, the Claimant sought relief against the Defendant, a well-known cricketer, preventing him from disseminating private photographs of her, which were in his possession.
The parties in the matter had been in a sexual relationship. While in this relationship, photos were taken by them including nude pictures of the couple engaged in sexual acts. After the relationship ended the photos were allegedly shown to other people.
The Claimant filed an action in court, seeking an order that the Defendant:
This case marked the first time the common law concept of breach of confidence was applied in Trinidad and Tobago to deal with a circumstance where intimate photographs taken in private had been distributed without the consent of the other party. The Honourable Justice Frank Seepersad stated that the case reinforced the Court’s belief that:
"....in the absence of legislative protection, the common law concept of Breach of Confidence has to be moulded in such a way so as to address modern societal demands. The law has to be dynamic and has to develop in such a way to ensure that it remains relevant and it must be recognized that there is an obligation of conscience which requires that videos, photographs and/or recordings that capture private intimate relations, should be clothed with a quality of confidentiality…The distribution of sexually explicit images including the uploading of such material unto the internet, without the consent of the depicted subject cannot be condoned in civilized society."
The Honourable Judge went on to say that:
"While it may be difficult for some to comprehend, it appears that it is not uncommon for couples in a sexual relationship to share intimate images with each other using their mobile phones during their relationship. This practice has introduced a relatively new verb- ‘sexting’ – to the English language and the dissemination of graphic sexual material after relations end has been coined as ‘Revenge Porn.”
The Honourable Judge added that:
"…the behaviour of the Defendant cannot be condoned and demonstrated a flagrant disregard for the feelings, emotion and dignity of the Claimant with whom he shared sexual relations..."
It means that in a scenario where parties (adults) are engaged in consensual sexual activity in private, an obligation of confidentiality can be applied. This means that all photographs and recordings which capture sexual practices conducted in private, should only be disseminated where the consent of all parties has been obtained. If the photographs or recordings are shared without one of the person's consent, then there is a breach of confidentiality and the person who did not give consent can seek redress.
It should be noted that the victims of revenge porn tend to be women. This was noted by the Honourable Justice Seepersad in the same case. He stated:
"The treatment of women as mere objects of pleasure is offensive, derogatory antiquated, has no place in a civilized society and is indicative of the general lack of respect. In this society women are often treated as second class citizens and as being inferior to their male counterparts but the reality is that they are excelling in all facets of national life and they are achieving greater academic success than many of their male counterparts...Respect for individuals regardless of gender, ethnicity sexual orientation, for the law and for authority, must define the way we live and interact with each other."
While it is very important to note this, the fact that men can also be victims of revenge porn should not be disregarded. Recently I was shown an Instagram page where sexually explicit photos and videos of Trinidadian men were published to embarrass them for allegedly cheating. It appeared as though the photos and videos were shared by women who had been in relationships with the said men. If these photos and videos were shared without consent from the men, this could also be an example of revenge porn.
What can I do if I think I'm a victim of revenge porn?
The first thing you can do is save the evidence. Save message threads, images, and screenshots of social media posts and websites (with the URL visible) in a secure place, like a hard-drive or phone that's password protected.
The next thing you can do is seek legal advice to find out whether you can and should bring an action against your ex-partner for breach of confidence.
Important Notice: This post does not constitute or provide legal advice. Always consult with a suitably qualified attorney-at-law on any legal problem or issue.
Law For All is managed by the Aurora Chambers Legal Practice.
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