Social media is a platform to connect people but the violation of posting explicit images and content is an ever growing problem. Surveys by The River suggest that more than 25 percent of KU students have suffered sexual harassment online.
A 23-year-old ex-KU student spoke to The River about her experience with online revenge porn and how it could have “ruined her life and career”.
Jessica (name changed), who studied at Kingston two years ago, had a life-changing experience when her ex-boyfriend (also a KU student) trolled her online, posting nude pictures of her and faking his identity on dating app Tinder.
Jessica was in a relationship with her boyfriend for a year and a half before they split when she had caught him cheating with her best friend.
A few months after Jessica had split up with her ex, she made an account on Tinder to move on and start meeting new people. Within weeks she started speaking to someone and they “clicked instantly”.
Jessica said: “We kept speaking for months, I know it sounds crazy but we never met and I really liked him. Sounds like something you’d see on that TV show Catfish where people say they fall in love with someone that they’ve never met. I wouldn’t take it as far as saying I was in love with him but I thought we were going somewhere.”
Jessica was supposed to meet up with him on a number of occasions, that ended up with a no-show. She said: “Things started to change, we didn’t speak to each other as much and I messaged him saying I didn’t see the point of speaking anymore.
“I was sick of being let down when we’d plan anything. To be honest I was getting bored. It’s not like he was the only person I was speaking to on Tinder.”
Weeks went by and Jessica didn’t hear from him. Until one evening, when Jessica was getting ready to go on a night out in Kingston, she received a message from him on Tinder. It contained nude images that she had sent to her ex-boyfriend when they were together. She knew from the images that it was him and that he had made a fake account to watch what she was doing after their break up.
Jessica said: “I was shook, I couldn’t believe that for all this time I was speaking to my ex. All I kept thinking was what a psycho he was and why he’d send me back those pictures that I sent to him when we were together. It was malicious, all I kept asking myself was what he was going to do with the pictures and why he’d do this.”
That night Jessica continued to go out, believing her ex was trying to scare her with the nude photos. Only a few hours later, the photos were posted on Jessica’s personal accounts on Instagram and Twitter. Her ex still had her logins from when they were together.
She said: “I didn’t know the pictures went up until I was trying to post photos of me and my girlfriends in the club and when I refreshed my feed on Instagram was when I saw the nudes. I have never been so embarrassed and ashamed in my life. The nudes had been online for around 20 minutes and I was petrified, I didn’t know if people had screen-shotted them and passed them on to people on my course. I have my parents on my social media accounts, my family and my friends. I had to do something.”
Jessica stayed away from social media for six months, deleted the photos, shut down all of her social media accounts and reported her ex’s profile on Tinder.
She said: “I’m glad I took such a long break from social media, I needed it. I didn’t want to carry on using my accounts for him to make a fake profile and try to do the same thing again. Not only that but I actually enjoyed a little detox from social media, I spend way too much time on that thing it was like an addiction.”
Tinder said: “With so many people using Tinder, safety is our priority. We encourage victims of inappropriate behaviour to report it straight away. While we are bringing people together, we strongly urge them to look after their personal safety and well-being.”
Jessica added: “If it weren’t for me constantly going on my phone I wouldn’t have seen the photos and got rid of them so quickly. Even though I spend too much time on my phone, I could say that social media helped me in the sense that I wouldn’t have seen the nudes so quickly. The nudes could have ruined my life and career. I blame social media as the nudes should have been taken down straight away. People violate posting rules on Instagram and Twitter every day. There needs to be better regulations in place to stop the leaking of sexually explicit images.”