What to do if someone is threatening to share your nudes

Cyan Turan
·6-min read
Photo credit: Katie Wilde - Getty Images
Photo credit: Katie Wilde - Getty Images

From Cosmopolitan

Research from national domestic abuse charity Refuge shows 1 in 7 young women aged between 18-34 have experienced threats to have their photos shared.

The charity's latest campaign, The Naked Threat, seeks to have the act of threatening to share explicit photos without consent (an act known as revenge porn) made a crime as part of the Domestic Abuse Bill.

You can help make this happen by petitioning the government - click here. Here, Refuge's Tech Abuse Expert Team explain what to do if you've found yourself on the receiving end of such a threat.

If you've ever been on the receiving end of a naked threat, you'll know just how stomach-curdling, fear-inducing, and anxiety-spiking it can be. The idea that someone you trusted would hurt you by sharing revenge porn can feel like the worst betrayal. But while the act of sharing these types of photos or videos is a crime, threatening to do so isn't - yet.

That's where Refuge's latest campaign - #TheNakedThreat - comes in. The charity is seeking to make threatening to share 'revenge porn' a crime as part of the Domestic Abuse Bill, which is currently in its final stages before becoming law. The campaign is supported by Cosmopolitan, Refuge ambassador Olivia Colman, survivors, and influencer Zara McDermott, who herself has experienced naked threats.

"I've been on the receiving end of 'revenge porn' threats and know exactly how damaging it can be," says Zara. "I've heard from countless other women that they too have had similar experiences."

The Domestic Abuse Bill has the potential to overhaul how revenge porn threats are dealt with by criminalising them, but only if we ensure the legislation responds to the realities women face, says Ellie Butt, head of policy and parliamentary affairs at Refuge, whose Revenge Porn Helpline has seen calls about threats to share intimate images more than triple between 2017 and 2020, rising 73% between 2019 and 2020 alone.

Photo credit: Katie Wilde - Getty Images
Photo credit: Katie Wilde - Getty Images

"So much of our lives are lived online, which is increasingly causing harm and enabling abuse. Making threats to share intimate images a crime will make a real difference to thousands of women. The time to act is now," says Butt.

So far, over 42, 000 letters have been sent to government ministers over the last few months. As the Bill reaches its final stages, we at Cosmopolitan hope to see Refuge succeed and see the law strengthened to protect women. You can join Refuge’s campaign to end naked threats here. But what can you do if you've received a naked threat yourself? Refuge's Tech Abuse Expert Team explain...

What is the current law around ‘revenge porn’?

It is illegal for someone to share an intimate image or video without consent – but right now it is not illegal to threaten to share an intimate image. "Threatening to share an image is a form of domestic abuse - living with this threat is a very powerful way in which men can control and abuse women," warns Refuge.

What should I do if my current partner has asked for naked pictures of me?

"If you are concerned for any reason that your partner may use such an image against you then we recommend you don't share it," the charity advises. "Another way to look at this is to think – am I scared or worried about sharing an image with him and what he might then do with the image? If the answer is yes, or if you are experiencing any other form of abuse, then be very wary of sending such an image as this could be yet another way in which your partner could control you." If you do decide to send any images then keep it somewhere secure, as you may need to use it at a later date.

Photo credit: Katie Wilde - Getty Images
Photo credit: Katie Wilde - Getty Images

Also, before you send the image, you can 'hash' it. "Hashing an image is a process where you can link the image with The Revenge Porn Helpline or other social media providers and they will request you also safely upload the image to them and then their specialist team will ensure the image cannot be uploaded online onto specific social media sites," explain Refuge. You can find out how to do this here.

In addition, if you hash the image, you can Google search it at any time to check that it is not on the internet - and if you find that the image has been uploaded you can locate the exact site, report it and have it removed.

What should I do if a current or ex partner has threatened to share naked pictures I sent?

If you feel comfortable to, report the threat to the police. "It is likely you will be experiencing other forms of abuse and harassment and the police could support you to put protective measures in place to stop you from being contacted by your current/ex-partner," say Refuge. "Keep all evidence of the threats your partner or ex makes, for example any messages or emails, as you may need these later on when seeking protective measures."

Is there anything I can do to stop people sharing my naked pictures?

If you have a copy of the image that someone is threatening to share, follow the above advice on hashing the image via the Revenge Porn Helpline - this will prevent it from being uploaded on social media channels. "You can also set up Google Alerts, so every time anything associated with your image or name is uploaded to the internet, you will be notified by email or message and this will send you directly to the site so you can report and remove the content," the charity advises. Remember to take screenshots of the image/content uploaded to the site as you may need this at a later date to report to the police.

Photo credit: Katie Wilde - Getty Images
Photo credit: Katie Wilde - Getty Images

What can I do if they actually go ahead and share my naked photos?

Though threatening to share naked images isn't a criminal offence - yet - the act of sharing them is, so report it. "If you feel safe doing to, we would encourage you to report this to the police," say Refuge. You can also contact Refuge and The Revenge Porn Helpline for support.

If my naked pictures have been sent to other people, but not posted online, is that legal?

If you did not consent to your images being shared, then this is illegal. "If this happens there will be an evidence trail of the images being sent from one device to another," advise Refuge. "Alert the police so they can follow up and check to see if the images have been circulated. Even if they aren’t shared online they will be sent via messaging platforms and this can all be traced."

To petition the government to change the law surrounding threats of revenge porn, click here. If you need support, call Refuge’s Freephone 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247 or go to nationaldahelpline.org.uk.

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