LibLink: Hannah Thompson on her successful campaign to outlaw revenge porn

hannah thompsonEvery time I read about what Hannah Thompson went through, the ordeal of not knowing when and where photos which she had intended only for private consumption would end up next after her former boyfriend abused her trust, it makes me want to cry. Partly in empathy, feeling for what she went through, partly in anger that anyone could do that to a former partner, partly in total admiration at the way she has calmly and reasonably campaigned for what happened to her to be made an offence. This week the House of Lords passed the amendment which makes revenge porn illegal.

Hannah told her story to the Telegraph, first of all talking about the powerlessness of not knowing where these photos, which should never have seen the light of day, would resurface, especially when the Police said there was nothing they could do:

He’d upload them; I’d find them; I’d beg him to take them down; he’d acquiesce and apologise profusely. Then the whole cycle would start again a few weeks later.

And I wasn’t the only one who had been targeted in this way. There were numerous images of other girls published on his site, too.

I struggled to reconcile what was happening with the sweet boy who had been too scared to hold my hand on our first date, two years before.

I became so paranoid that I would reverse image search the pictures every day (putting them into Google to check whether they’d been republished) and report every single instance of them. I became obsessed, scrolling through the obscene comments even though they made my stomach turn.

My self-confidence disappeared and I felt every inch the ‘whore’ and ‘slut’ he’d labelled me.

I’d always clung on to the idea that the police were my last resort. But after they rejected my cry for help, I felt entirely alone.

The reaction from her family was a lot more supportive than Hannah expected and that gave her the confidence to begin her campaign:

Their reponse was phenomenal. My Nan asked me why I hadn’t told anyone sooner, I told her I was ashamed.

Her response: “Ashamed of what? Trusting the wrong person? We’ve all been there”.

My confidence increased with their support. I began telling myself, daily, that I had done nothing wrong.

And as I started to feel more like myself again, I realised something: this should be a criminal offence.

I started researching in to non-consensual pornography, which is how I learnt the term ‘revenge porn’ – it wasn’t something I’d ever heard, or applied to my experience before then.

Next, I found an online petition calling on the British Government to criminalise it. I told my story on Twitter and encouraged people to sign – it had more than a thousand new signatures within 24 hours.

Other people began sharing their stories with me. Some had been rejected by the police and others had been too ashamed to ever tell them. I was furious that these people – mostly women – had been harassed and shamed in to silence, while the perpetrators were able to revel in the pain they caused.

She talks about how she no longer feels afraid and no longer feels ashamed and adds that there is still more to do on this, even though the law has been changed:

This amendment isn’t the end. It’s not enough. There needs to be co-ordinated support for victims wanting to get their private images taken down from the internet. Such pictures have the potential to ruin people’s careers, relationships and lives.

I don’t want to read another story of somebody driven to suicide because their explicit photos were shared without their consent.

Victims need to know that it’s not their fault. There is help out there for them.

You can read the whole article here.

You may also be interested to know that Scottish Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Alison McInnes has saked SNP ministers to make a similar change of the law north of the border.She has introduced a parliamentary motion on the subject and wrote to Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill saying:

The House of Lords this week unanimously agreed to amend the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill to make revenge pornography a criminal offence in England and Wales. I am writing to urge the Scottish Government to follow its example and introduce specific legislation to tackle these vile and damaging acts.

The Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland QC, has expressed concerns that there is significant under-reporting of this issue. It is important that victims don’t suffer in silence and know that they have done nothing wrong. I believe that introducing specific legislation to tackle these despicable and cowardly acts will give victims confidence that such violations of their privacy are unacceptable and illegal.

In addition to empowering more people to seek justice, creating a specific criminal offence would help overcome any archaic attitudes towards the use of revenge pornography as a cruel tool to distress, embarrass, manipulate or humiliate someone.

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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15 Comments

  • “Her response: “Ashamed of what? Trusting the wrong person? We’ve all been there”.

    Words of wisdom. Good work Hannah.

  • Julian Tisi 22nd Oct '14 - 1:18pm

    Very, very brave. And what a way to respond to the initial bullying, by getting the law changed. Can you imagine how many bullies will now think twice in future before doing such a thing again and how many girls will now feel a bit safer as a result. Respect.

  • I’m immensely pleased that the new Clause was accepted into the bill, and the LDV award was well deserved.

    But Hannah’s right, we need to go further. Especially when newspapers who celebrate revenge porn being criminalised then, two days later, publish revenge porn on their front page.

  • Trusting the wrong person? We’ve all been there

    Some of us haven’t.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 22nd Oct '14 - 5:03pm

    Julian’s point is extremely important. And I think Hannah’s experience of the support she got when she told her family should encourage other people in the same situation that if they reach out to those closest to them, they won’t get the rejection they fear.

  • Liberal Neil 22nd Oct '14 - 5:53pm

    Hannah has done a great job on this.

  • Horrified to see the creep who did this popping up on a certain popular BBC1 programme earlier. He should be contemplating a criminal record instead of developing a TV career. Shame this law has come too late for him, but what a tremendous achievement Hannah and others have managed here.

  • Fiona White 23rd Oct '14 - 7:38am

    Wouldn’t you think he would so ashamed of himself that he would want to hide in a hole somewhere and pull it in behind him. What sort of TV programmer would even suggest having him on there?

  • Fiona White 23rd Oct '14 - 7:39am

    Sorry, I also meant to say how well Hannah has dealt with this. She has turned something horrid into a really positive action. It has been a brilliant campaign from day one.

  • Dav: Your point being?

  • Dav: Your point being?

    It’s not inevitable, it’s carelessness.

  • Malcolm Todd 23rd Oct '14 - 12:04pm

    Really, Dav? You’ve never trusted someone who turned out not to be as trustworthy as you thought? Is that perhaps because you’ve never trusted anyone at all?

  • “You may also be interested to know that Scottish Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Alison McInnes has saked SNP ministers to make a similar change of the law north of the border.”

    Perhaps I’m dumb, but why is this necessary? Scotland is part of the UK, the House of Lords (and the Common’s) are well within their right to make this amendment apply to the whole of the UK&NI.

  • Roland. — might it be anything to do with the fact that Scotland has always had an entirely different legal system? I am just guessing but it might be the answer to your question.

    Scotland also has a parliament in Edinburgh and the leader of the three London unionist parties made a solemn vow a couple of days before the referendum to give that parliament more powers than the people of Scotland could possibly dream of. Or did you not notice any of that going on?

  • John – Whilst I would tend to agree, this bill in it’s entirety applies to the UK&NI and includes a section detailing the ‘extent’ to which certain parts of the bill apply to particular regions; but giving no rationale for these extent limitations.

    I was also asking because points like this would seem to become the norm when we get into the real details of devolution and trying to separate business between Westminster and devolved assemblies. To my mind “revenge porn” is either a criminal offence in the UK&NI or not, this isn’t something the devolved assemblies need to be debating.

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