You don’t have to be directly affected by intimate image abuse to get in touch with the Revenge Porn Helpline. A friend, family member, or support worker can contact the Helpline to ask for additional advice and information on behalf of those who have been affected. Whilst we can outline to others the practical legalities around intimate image abuse, how we can help, and what advice we can offer, we do also need to ensure that those reaching out on someone’s behalf recognise the lasting impact this type of abuse can have on someone’s wellbeing.
To do this, let’s start by trying to put ourselves in their position. Imagine waking up one day and realising that the person you felt close to, or the person you thought you trusted the most, was the same person who was going to turn your world upside down and leave you feeling embarrassed or humiliated. Would you have the confidence to voice what had happened? Do you think you would have the courage to tell a friend or family member that you sent someone private sexual images of yourself and that these now have been shared online for everyone to see? If your answer is no, then things really do need to change. At The Revenge Porn Helpline, we feel passionate about creating a world where people feel comfortable disclosing what has happened and really do want to reach out for support.
It is important to remember that not only is intimate image abuse a crime in the UK, but it can also have a lasting effect on someone’s emotional wellbeing. We are strong advocates encouraging people to steer clear of the victim-blaming culture that we sometimes find ourselves in. If you’re the first person someone has spoken to about what has happened, it is worth remembering that your initial reaction could have a huge impact on how they move forward.
Using phrases such as ‘well you shouldn’t have sent them a photo,’ or ‘you need to take some responsibility,’ is likely only going to reinforce the feelings of self-blame, worthlessness, and shame and potentially prevent this person from seeking further support.
Instead, let’s start the conversation by reminding that person that sharing an intimate image of yourself consensually is not a crime, the crime, and blame, lies solely with the people who choose to share or threaten to share those images elsewhere without consent. Providing them with kind words, love, and support early on will hopefully encourage them to seek the appropriate support they deserve. No matter what your views or opinions are on what has happened, it is important that you do not project these judgments onto others but instead focus on the crime that has been committed, and reassure them that you are going to help them through this.
We also appreciate the impact that supporting someone who has experienced this form of abuse can have on your emotions. Watching someone you care about go through this may leave you feeling angry, confused, or helpless, and it is ok to feel this way. However, please remember that there is a reason someone has trusted you with this. You are someone they have felt comfortable disclosing to, talking to, and helping them report what has happened. Why not use this time to not only support your friend/family member but to start changing the discourse around this victim-blaming culture we often find ourselves in.
If you are a professional supporting someone affected by intimate image abuse, you can also get in touch with us on their behalf. We do not need to contact the client directly if this is what they would prefer, and we can support them via your you/your organisation. If you would like us to support your client, please find more information here to enable us to report for the client.
Should you need further support in talking to someone about what has happened, you can find further emotional support services available to you here.