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Commentary: Cease asking why she took the nude, begin asking why he shared it

SINGAPORE: It took uncommon presence of thoughts from a Nationwide College of Singapore pupil for a brand new rash of Telegram discussion groups circulating obscene photos of girls to return to public consideration final month. 

These teams had been eerily much like SG Nasi Lemak, which made headlines in 2019 for comparable prison actions, regardless of its shockingly excessive membership depend (round 44,000 in a single group alone), and the following arrests of some admins.

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Though most of us expressed disgust over the brand new teams, we finally moved on with our lives, like we have now numerous occasions earlier than. These occur so usually we have gotten inured to them.

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In any case, within the yr 2020 alone, AWARE’s Sexual Assault Care Centre noticed 140 instances of technology-facilitated sexual violence, or TFSV. 

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Sadly, victims of TFSV don’t all the time have the choice to maneuver on. Along with experiencing ranges of trauma comparable with survivors of bodily assault, isolation from family members and potential skilled repercussions, victims of TFSV additionally face the fixed, inescapable menace of being violated repeatedly – each time their photographs or movies are shared non-consensually with new recipients.

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When their photos find yourself on-line, ladies are sometimes blamed for having participated of their creation. As a substitute of asking “why would somebody try this to her?” we are inclined to as an alternative direct our ire on the particular person within the {photograph}, asking “why did you’re taking that photograph?” 

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We zero in on a person lady and condemn her, with out paying heed to the context wherein the photograph was taken or the content material of the photograph itself. 

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Over the course of an eight-year relationship, Sara* exchanged intimate photographs together with her boyfriend.

Photograph illustration of a person taking upskirt photographs. (Photograph: Jeremy Lengthy)

However when she wished to finish issues, he threatened to launch these photographs and movies if she went by way of with the break up. Scared and bored with the emotional abuse she was going through, she sought assist from our centre. 

Sara’s case falls into a primary class of photographs which are non-consensually circulated on-line. These are photographs and movies co-created by {couples} within the context of a romantic, usually sexual relationship.

The voluntary sharing of intimate photographs might be an expression of affection and intimacy. They kind part of the cultural phenomenon of “sexting”, an more and more frequent a part of grownup romantic relationships. 

However they remodel into TFSV when they’re shared non-consensually, both through hacking, or when the preliminary recipients or co-creators disseminate them with out the sufferer’s data and consent. 

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A second class of photographs are taken by somebody recognized to the sufferer, however their creation and dissemination are non-consensual.

We frequently see such visuals emerge within the context of home violence, with their manufacturing and distribution technique of management. 

A consumer of ours, Ayesha* shared that her ex-boyfriend compelled her to take nude photographs and movies and despatched these express supplies to her members of the family after she filed a police report in opposition to him for harassment.

The third class are photographs obtained by way of voyeurism – together with upskirting, and photographs taken whereas a lady is sleeping or within the bathe. These is likely to be non-consensually created and distributed, or used for personal “consumption”. 

Picture shared by Twitter person Mishap_bella exhibits the Telegram chat group “SG Nasi Lemak” blocked on iPhone. 

Lastly, we have now harmless photos taken from ladies and women’ personal social media accounts and shared on discussion groups with out their consent. Whereas accounts is likely to be set to public or non-public, the photographs are topic to a torrent of sexualised feedback and framing after being shared on illicit teams.

Typically these customers are tweens who put up on a regular basis photographs of themselves and their buddies on Instagram – having fun with a meal, goofing round within the park and in lots of non-sexual on a regular basis actions. Typically the photographs are digitally altered to magnify sure physique elements.

In these Telegram chats, private particulars of the sufferer, reminiscent of their identify, handle and hyperlinks to social media profiles, are shared alongside visuals, turning non-consensual on-line circulation into offline abuse, together with stalking, sexual harassment and assault.

The results might be wide-reaching. Half of 1,244 victims who had reached out to the US Cyber Civil Rights Initiatives had seen their full names and social media profiles revealed alongside their photos. Over 20 per cent reported that their e-mail addresses and cellphone numbers had been revealed together with their photos. 

(How do movies and photographs of harmless victims find yourself on disgusting illicit Telegram chats? TSTIME’s Coronary heart of the Matter dives into how one younger lady infiltrated these teams and reached out to victims:)


It ought to be plain to see that perpetrators are culpable for TFSV, not victims. Taking {a photograph} of your self, or posing for {a photograph}, doesn’t damage anybody. Sharing these pictures with out consent does.

So it doesn’t assist to deal with what ladies did that resulted in these Telegram chats, or chastise them for innocuous behaviour.

Specializing in a lady’s behaviour (for instance, the truth that she took an intimate photograph) is on the very coronary heart of victim-blaming. 

We’ve got seen an identical sample of feedback on-line concerning instances of sexual assault that fixate on the ladies’s selections (for instance, we query in the event that they drank alcohol and what they wore) and their reactions within the aftermath of violence, which cleverly diminishes the accountability of the perpetrator and transfers it to victims.

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Survivors who face victim-blaming are much less more likely to make police reviews and search additional assist of their restoration journeys. However ladies shouldn’t be held chargeable for the behaviour of their boyfriends, husbands, exes, voyeurs, stalkers, underwear thieves or bosses who ship unsolicited photos of genitalia. 

Till we clearly establish the purpose at which violence happens, and assign blame the place it belongs, we gained’t see any actual progress. Images and movies of girls will proceed to flow into with out their consent, and with out accountability on the a part of perpetrators.

Educating consent from a younger age shouldn’t be a matter of alternative. It ought to be made non-negotiable. For older youngsters, the Council of Europe recommends that folks use real-life examples to clarify the dangers, risks, and authorized points surrounding sexting.

If youngsters discover themselves uncovered, they need to have the instruments to debate tips on how to report the offensive supplies with a trusted grownup and discover affirming emotional assist.

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Latest amendments up to date Singapore’s Penal Code to be related to the “smartphone age” by criminalising voyeurism, non-consensual creation and distribution of intimate photos, and cyber sexual publicity (i.e. vulgar photos). Nevertheless, regardless of this monumental progress, it’s clear we haven’t begun to unravel the issue. 

Purchasers of AWARE’s Sexual Assault Care Centre share with us the numerous hours they spend monitoring down photos, submitting takedown requests with particular person social media platforms, altering cellphone numbers, deleting social media accounts – all to guard themselves from additional hurt and obtain a modicum of reduction after their privateness and autonomy is violated. 

(Photograph: Pixabay/sasint)

Enormous quantities of labour goes into these efforts. But we all know that when a photograph or video is on the market on the web, there’s no telling the place it could find yourself. And the longer photographs and movies keep on-line, the more durable they turn out to be to take away. 

We hope the brand new Safety from Harassment Act courts might be delicate to those nuances, and permit the submitting of instances and issuance of takedown requests to be processed inside 48 to 72 hours. 

We will mannequin our system after different efficient ones. Australia’s Workplace of eSafety Commissioner responds to complaints of image-based abuse inside 48 hours of official reviews being filed with them.

Social media platforms have a vital position to play right here too. They need to proactively implement steps to discourage non-consensual photographs or movies from being shared within the first place.

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They need to be required to share data throughout platforms so {that a} non-consensual picture’s digital footprint can be utilized to stop it from being uploaded on a platform after it has been taken down by one other, as an alternative of requiring victims to file complaints with every particular person social media platform. 

Social media platforms have to commit extra human sources to tackling such instances and supply a transparent time-frame inside which victims can anticipate help. 

There’s a lot to be achieved earlier than the horrible observe of TFSV might be put to mattress. However simply attacking ladies for sharing nudes will not be one in every of them.

Shailey Hingorani is head of analysis and advocacy at AWARE.

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