Understanding revenge pornography: public perceptions of revenge pornography and victim blaming

Published date08 January 2018
Date08 January 2018
AuthorSarah Bothamley,Ruth J. Tully
Subject MatterHealth & social care,Criminology & forensic psychology,Aggression, conflict & peace,Sociology,Gender studies,Gender violence,Political sociology, policy & social change,Social conflicts,War/peace
Understanding revenge pornography:
public perceptions of revenge
pornography and victim blaming
Sarah Bothamley and Ruth J. Tully
Purpose The disclosure of private images with the intent of causing distress is often described as revenge
pornography. In the UK, this newly legislated crime has received a high level of media attention following
several high profile cases, however, there is a paucity of research in this area. The paper aims to discuss
these issues.
Design/methodology/approach In total, 168 adults (UK general public) completed an online survey using
a vignette approach. Views of the influence of perpetrator-victim relationship length and reason for
termination were considered alongside perception of an offence, the necessity of police intervention, what
extent revenge pornography creates psychological harm in victims, and victim blaming.
Findings Perpetrator-victim relationship length and reason for relationship breakdown did not influence
perceptions of victim blame. Participants believed that the situation described in the vignettes was likely to be
an offence, and that police intervention is somewhat necessary. Participants believed that the scenario was
very likelyto create fear, and moderately likelyto create psychological/mental harm in victims. In line with
the literature relating to stalking and sexual assault, men blamed the victim significantly more than women.
Furthermore, women rated police intervention as significantly more necessary than men.
Research limitations/implications The public are recognising that revenge pornography is an offence,
with consequences being fear and psychological harm, showing an awareness of the impact on victims.
However, there are sex differences in the perceptions of revenge pornography and victim blaming, and this
could be addressed by raising awareness of this crime. This research, which highlights that the public are
aware of some of the harm caused, may encourage victims in coming forward to report such a crime.
Originality/value There is a paucity of research into revenge pornography, and this study is one of the first
in this area.
Keywords Domestic abuse, Partner violence, Sexual violence, Revenge pornography, Victim blame,
Paper type Research paper
The disclosure of a private sexual photograph or film [] without the consentof an individual who
appears in the photograph or film, and with the intention of causing that individual distress
(UK Parliament, 2015, pp. 34-35) is the definition of what many have come to know as revenge
pornographyor revenge porn. Revenge pornography has been catapulted into the public arena
via the media after several high profile cases in the UK, within which justice was difficult to achieve
due to lack of legislation deeming the distribution of private sexual images an offence (Mullen et al.,
2000). Before 2015, victims of revenge pornography in the UK relied upon the criminal justice
system applying alternative laws suchas the Harassment Act 1997, Communication Act 2003and
Malicious Communications Act 1988 to be able to prosecute perpetrators of revenge pornography
with any offence at all. This reliance on other laws was problematic, because they were not reflective
of modern harassment methods and the psychological impact of such methods. Often,
perpetrators escapedjustice and courts wereunable to impose appropriate sanctions. It was clear
Received 27 September 2016
Revised 16 January 2017
26 January 2017
Accepted 26 January 2017
Sarah Bothamley is based at
the Centre for Forensic and
Family Psychology,
The University of Nottingham,
Nottingham, UK.
Ruth J. Tully is an Assistant
Professor at the Centre for
Forensic and Family
Psychology, The University of
Nottingham, Nottingham, UK
and is a Forensic Psychologist
at Tully Forensic Psychology
Ltd, Nottingham, UK.
DOI 10.1108/JACPR-09-2016-0253 VOL. 10 NO. 1 2018, pp.1-10, © Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 1759-6599

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