VULNERABLE Asian victims of revenge porn who are “suffering in silence” and not reporting incidents for fear of bringing “dishonour” to their families, face being disowned by relatives, charity workers have warned.
Women whose jilted partners have posted x-rated photographs or videos of them online have also reported feeling suicidal following the humiliating ordeal.
Justice minister Shailesh Vara, who has piloted a new law criminalising revenge porn through parliament, told Eastern Eye he was concerned that Asian victims were failing to report the actions of their former partners because talking about sex was taboo.
Those convicted of sharing intimate images and videos of their partners now face up to two years in jail under the new legislation, which was introduced in a bid to end the “evil” act. “I want to send out a very loud and clear message to the public that we have legislation in place where perpetrators of these evil crimes can be sent to prison for doing this activity,” Vara, MP for North West Cambridgeshire, said.
Polly Harrar, founder of The Sharan Project which supports Asian women, has backed the move. She said: “There is a genuine fear of humiliation and shame if images are disclosed, and it is this fear that is being used by perpetrators of revenge porn. This can lead to further sexualisation of the victim or ruin their marriage prospects by threatening to show images to their family or future in-laws. Ultimately, this can result in being disowned and increase their risk of so-called ‘honour’ abuse.”
The new offence covers photographs or films which show people engaged in sexual activity or depicted in a sexual way, or with their genitals exposed, where what is shown would not usually be seen in public. Meena, 42, from Wembley in west London, was distraught when her boyfriend sold graphic photographs of her.
“I thought he loved me. Why would he use me for money like this? My family can’t ever find out. I wish I was dead,” she said. Meena is being supported by Mandy Sanghera, a human rights activist and government adviser.
Sanghera said: “Asian women are being targeted because men know they can have greater control over them because of ‘honour’ [the victim not wanting to ruin family’s reputation]. “Also Asian women are not as streetwise as they have been sheltered. We need to talk more openly and support victims.”
The majority of victims in Britain are women and there were 149 allegations of revenge porn reported between January 2012 and July 2014.
“The Asian community has traditionally been reluctant on subjects such as sex or anything related to it to go public, but at the end of the day an offence has been committed,” Vara told EE.
“In the modern world we all need to take responsibility and need to be aware of the consequences that follow if certain actions are taken. People should be aware before they provide intimate photos of themselves because when things go wrong, they go very wrong.”
Vara added: “There’s also a role for parents to advise their kids in how to use mobile phones. What sometimes happens is they [pictures] can be sent to members of the family, to employers, to friends, and clearly that is very distressing.”
A new helpline to support people affected by revenge porn was launched last week. It is run by the charity South West Grid for Learning, who work with internet bosses to remove x-rated images.
Laura Higgins, from the charity, told EE: “We were concerned with previous laws that covered revenge porn in the consistency of how they were handled by the police. We hope there is now clarity in how the offence is handled.”
She added: “There is the potential for more humiliation in strict religious communities. One woman became so paranoid that she couldn’t leave the house or take her kids to school because pictures were put on adult entertainment sites.”
The new law is part of the Criminal Court and Justice Bill that Vara led through the commons.
A Crime Prosecution Service spokesperson said: “Revenge pornography is a vitriolic crime. We hope the new legislation will further tackle it. We will seek to use the law where appropriate.”