Legal Eagle: Revenge porn causes pain and shame

February 05, 2018

After many years of using the thumb rule to beat their women into submission by using a stick as big as the man's thumb and thereafter, many centuries of domestic violence to inflict physical pain and emotional suffering on women, men have now modernised and upgraded to the new and widely available technologies associated with the Internet to inflict mental pain through gender-based violence, which is the publication of non-consensual pornography, otherwise known as 'revenge porn'.

Revenge porn is defined as the distribution of sexually explicit images or videos of persons (mostly women) without their consent. The purpose is generally to take revenge, humiliate and intimidate a partner or former lover in a relationship. Generally, the images are flagged with sufficient description to identify the female involved.

In Jamaican, the latest conviction occurred only last week when Donovan Coley was fined $500,000 for circulating nude pictures and private text messages of his former girlfriend on social media. Coley published the private photos and texts without consent after his ex-girlfriend threatened to end the relationship.

Jamaica is not alone with this new and emerging crime.

In September 2016, Darren McGowan was convicted of posting private sexual pictures on social media of his former girlfriend. The 43-year-old McGowan labelled the pictures with reference to her workplace plus phone number. In New York, Jasson Melo, a small-bodied man had what his lawyer described as a bout of 'penis envy' when he discovered text messages and photos of a larger penis than his on his ex-girlfriend's phone. He confronted her. They had a heated argument. Thereafter, in January 2017, he forced her to walk naked on a street in the city of New York while filming and berating her. He was convicted and sentenced to up to seven years in prison.

 

NO CONSENT

 

Information from studies in Australia revealed that one in 10 Australian adults had nude pictures posted without their consent, with revenge being the motive in many instances. It should be noted that sometimes the victim is not complicit in the production of the images. In the Lara Bingle case, her ex-lover, without her consent, took images of her in the shower and circulated them to sports teams and the media.

In a landmark civil case in the United Kingdom, Chrissy Chambers won damages against her former boyfriend who posted revenge porn online. Several sex videos were filmed without her knowledge and posted on RedTube and other porn sites after she ended the relationship with her man and started a new relationship with a woman.

In all of this, the continent of Africa is not spared from revenge porn, as there have been numerous cases in Nigeria, Malawi and Uganda in recent years.

Most jurisdictions have been responding with anti-pornography and/or anti-obscenity laws to criminalise the 'easy-to-do' activity. Jamaica reacted with the Cybercrimes Act and other legislation. Social media platforms such as Facebook has taken steps to reduce the publication of revenge porn on its medium, but in recent years it was forced to settle a civil case involving a 14-year-old girl after it hosted a very revealing picture of her on the Facebook 'shame' page.

Of note, however, is the fact that almost all the cases that have been reported, litigated or prosecuted involved women as the victim or complainant. Most of the physical abuses by men against women have been in confined places, but with the use of the Internet, the publication is instant and can reach millions of people all over the world. Revenge porn is void of the beating and other forms of physical abuse, but the pain and shame are beyond measure.

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