Sexting & Domestic Violence
By Arzo Yusuf
In the current digital age that we live in, a part of dating culture has evolved to include the exchange of nude photos between people playing the mating game, it’s part of something called sexting. If you are single and live in the western world, chances are you or someone you know has taken a nude selfie and shared it via text with a significant other or engaged in sexting. Even further, couples involved in intimate relationships take selfie videos of themselves in lingerie or without clothes on, being sexy to entice and arouse their intimate partner. The thing about intimate relationships is that it’s supposed to be based on trust and privacy is a foundational element. What’s scary about this new dating paradigm is, what if the relationship doesn’t work out? What if the couple gets into a big argument and one of the parties in a moment of anger tries to defame their partner by exploiting their nude images or tries to blackmail them with the content they have in order to control their partner’s behavior or coerce them to stay in the relationship or plain and simple, exploit the photos and videos as a form of violent retaliation?
We’ve seen this exact thing before with Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian; a former lover releases a private sex tape of the couple or woman in a sex act so that it’s viewable to the public. In the case of these two women there are arguments and possible evidence to show that perhaps it could have been staged as a publicity ploy which may or may not be true. However, that’s not always the case and there are thousands of women out there who are victims of something called Image Based Sexual Abuse or IBSA. IBSA is now considered a form of sexual abuse and domestic violence. The thing about exploitation, similar to sex trafficking vs. being a sex worker, is that exploitation is when something happens by force or coercion and without the consent of the person being exploited rather than the person being involved in the decision making of the action. Consent is the key word that differentiates exploitation and abuse vs. agency.
In an abstract written by the National Library of Medicine, it is said that individuals who experience IBSA may undergo perpetuated suffering due to an interwoven constellation of internal and external forces, much of which is rooted in the sexual regulation (if not subjugation) of women. Suffering is presented as originating from three domains: the self, the perpetrator, and society, which interact as a "Dark Triad.” This “dark triad” can be extremely lonely, isolating and damaging to the victim’s self esteem, mental health, future relationships, career, life prospects and reputation. Something that someone did in the privacy of a trusted relationship can ruin a person’s life and in severe cases, lead to suicide as it did to a teenager in 2009, Jessie Logan. Another aspect of this to consider is that if sexting of nude photos occurs between people under the age of 18, it is considered child pornography and teens around the country have faced criminal charges because of this.
Additionally, digital content such as photos or videos are in fact digital assets. Digital assets have monetary value and someone exploiting someones digital asset without consent and for direct monetary gain is theft. IBSA is essentially “revenge pornography” and often times the perpetrator distributes or sells the digital assets illegally to online platforms that re-distribute sexual content for profit from it’s viewers and subscribers. Online platforms that are engaging in the distribution of stolen digital assets are harming the individual that was exploited and engaging in the theft of a digital asset and owe monetary compensation to the victim for profits earned on the publication of the stolen asset.
IBSA is a growing problem that is plaguing women all over the country and there needs to be new laws put in place to protect women’s rights. A well known influencer, Uldouz Wallace, who has a large Instagram following of over 5 million is also victim of IBSA. Uldouz’s phone was hacked by a former partner and she found her photos and videos stolen and posted to pornographic websites. Over the course of years she contacted individual online platforms one by one begging them to remove the illegal content. It was an arduous task and she knew other women were experiencing the same thing and something had to be done to stop this. The exploitation of her photos and videos caused significant trauma to her and turned her life upside down. All of this led her to partnering with the non-profit organization, National Center on Sexual Exploitation and Senator Mike Lee to enact a new law to protect women from being exploited. The bill is called the Preventing Rampant Online Technological and Criminal Trafficking Act of 2022 (PROTECT Act) that would require websites allowing sexually explicit material (pornography) to obtain verified consent forms from individuals uploading content, or appearing in uploaded content, and to require websites to remove images uploaded without consent.
The bill is being presented to Congress this week and signatures are needed. Please click this link to learn more and sign the bill so we can stop Image Based Sexual Abuse and protect women’s rights against domestic violence. Click here to learn more about the Protect Act and see who else is supporting this bill.
In the year 2022, women are still the victims of domestic violence, sex trafficking and various forms of slavery. Slavery and exploitation of women has existed for thousands of years. Women throughout the world are still not free. We must come together to stand in solidarity with one another and fight for our collective freedom. We are not free until we are all free.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic violence happens in many forms including physical, sexual, emotional, mental, financial and through the exploitation of photos/videos. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence we encourage you to get help by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 or text the number 88788 with the word START. Sexy Boss Babe hosts monthly zoom sessions for women experiencing domestic violence looking for a way to get out. Zoom sessions are held on the first Friday of every month at 12pm pacific time. Link for the zoom session is on our website under the tab “Abuse."