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Revenge porn is virtual rape. Evil people who do it must face jail time

PUBLISHED: 14:28 09 August 2019 | UPDATED: 14:28 09 August 2019

Steven Downes says people who send revenge porn by text or social media should face jail if convicted. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Steven Downes says people who send revenge porn by text or social media should face jail if convicted. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Just imagine if your son or daughter messaged to say they'd just seen a video of you having sex with an ex-partner.

Then, a few minutes later, your friend says the same, then more friends. Then you got a load of Facebook notifications from strangers who were 'liking' the same footage.

Then your WhatsApp goes crazy, with sexual images of you being pinged across by various people.

I'd be horrified, humiliated, mortified - and probably would want to hide under the duvet and never show my face again. Truth be told, I think I'd feel suicidal.

I cannot think of many things that I would find more crushing.

The crime of maliciously sharing sexual images is called revenge porn - a description that sounds trivial in comparison to the gravity of the offence.

People who view these images often snigger and pass them on, because we are in a sharing society that commonly forgets the human beings who are being exposed to ridicule.

The criminal justice system hardly helps to change attitudes.

Take the case of Michael Young from Lowestoft, who subjected his ex-partner Kim Arthurton to "seven months of torture", including harassing her and sending explicit videos and naked pictures of her to her teenage daughter and the brother of her late long-term partner.

Ms Arthurton, who courageously waived her anonymity to speak out, said she felt "ashamed, vulnerable and humiliated".

Her reward for facing down her abuser and speaking out was to see magistrates in Norwich give Young a suspended sentence.

Now, not having been a victim, I am not qualified to comment on the impact of a severe sexual assault, though it doesn't take a genius to conclude that it is deeply damaging and enduring.

I do, though, feel very strongly about this. Young should have been jailed. In fact, I think it's time for jail to be the first resort in revenge porn cases.

Victims use the word "violated" to describe their feelings, which is why I feel able to call revenge porn virtual rape. "Virtual" because it happens online and via social media, and "rape" because its impact can be similar.

Relationships break up - and often it hurts like Hell.

Most people would admit that - in their weaker moments - they have thought how satisfying it would be to wreak some sort of revenge. But the thought should be the end of it.

A disturbing minority go further, though - including revenge porn.

They are cowards, bullies and sexual abusers.

Sexual intimacy in a relationship depends upon trust. In fact, the same goes for everything in a relationship.

If couples choose to share their lives on social media, that's up to them. But if one of them does not consent to becoming public property, their privacy must not be breached.

I won't even use a public swimming pool because I hate people seeing my body. If someone shared a snap of my translucent torso on social media, I'd be devastated.

We are all entitled to apply boundaries in our lives. Nobody has the right to unilaterally cross them.

My clearest boundary is that I choose who sees my body, and when. And in terms of sexual intimacy, it is absolutely, totally, never for sharing.

To be honest, I don't see why anyone else would be interested in what I get up to in private.

Sadly, there are evil people who revel in making people's private intimacy public property.

When they distribute sexual images and videos of a previous partner without permission, I think it makes them a sex offender.

The courts should treat them as such, not let them walk free.

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