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16 Days of Activism: Day 14 - Because we need to talk about mental health

The sharing of your intimate images online without your consent can have long-lasting and devastating impacts on people’s feeling and overall mental health. The distress, exposure and upset leave most victims feeling extremely vulnerable. The abuse is often designed to cause maximum distress to victims by sharing their most intimate content with the people they least want it to be shared with, this is often family, friends or colleagues.

Just imagine it for a second how it must feel; your heart aches, you feel sick. You’re ashamed and feel like it’s your entire fault. Your anxiety is at an all-time high, it’s hard to even leave the house as you think everyone is staring at you! You feel like your whole life has been ruined and there’s nothing you can do to help you get over what has happened. 

These emotions are not uncommon for the victims contacting the Revenge Porn Helpline, as other services around the world have found, contemplating suicide or increased anxiety and depression is a huge risk. 

In a recent study by theCivil Cyber Rights Initiative found 93% of those surveyed felt significant emotional distress and 82% suffered significant impairment in work and social environments when their private intimate images were shared online without their consent. The impact on their health meant that 26% were forced to take time off from work or education.

Another research study found that the impact on mental health was similar to that experienced by victims of sexual abuse, including trust issues, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and loss of feelings of control and self-esteem.

You are not alone. In the UK we have a range of services available to us to offer emotional support when we are struggling to cope. It's okay to ask for help and it's so important to look after your mental health. 

We know research is limited in relation to intimate image abuse and mental health. That is why we welcome the opportunity to be a member of the UK Research and Innovation Violence, Abuse and Mental Health Network. This network aims to reduce the prevalence of mental health problems by bringing together experts from different fields with different ways of thinking about violence, abuse and mental health. Some of these have personal experience of these issues, others will have expertise from the work that they do, and some will have both as survivor researchers. We look forward to advocating through this network and other collaborations for more research in relation to intimate image abuse and the impact on victims mental health.

If you have been victim to intimate image abuse and you are struggling to cope with what has happened. Head to our website here to find a range of services which can offer you emotional support, you’re not alone with this and help is out there. 

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