Image-based Violence and Cyberbullying

For those unfamiliar with the term, image-based violence or revenge porn, refers to persons who maliciously share naked, nude or sexually explicit photos of someone else without their permission. It can be distributed via social media, text messages, emails or even uploaded onto pornographic websites. The intention is usually to humiliate someone, or gain financial benefit from intimate multimedia sent by an ex or a former partner – thus the term “revenge porn”.

Jail time implications

New laws in South Africa take these offences extremely seriously. This is a turning point in South Africa’s modern history, and those who actively try to denigrate someone by making their private life public could land themselves in a lot of trouble.  

Here’s what they can now be jailed for

  • Knowingly distributing private sexual photographs or films without the prior consent of any individual featured.
  • Sharing these types of photos publicly with the intention to cause harm or distress.
  • Uploading private sexual photographs where the person can be clearly identified, or is named in any accompanying text.

Possible jail sentences and fines

Abusers found guilty of contravening this amended bill could find themselves with a two year jail sentence and a find of up to R150 000. However, if you post revenge porn which identifies the victim, both the prison time (four years) and the financial penalty (R300 000) double-up.

We need to remember that the digital world is not separate – it is the real world where people are able to express opinions and have social existence. We need to treat online abuse as serious and real as it is an extension of abusive behaviours.

We invite your NPO to join us on our digital platforms to participate in an online conversation about cyberbullying and image-based violence:

Women are overwhelmingly the victims of revenge porn and increasingly face the threat of vicious, crowd-sourced attacks on their private lives which harms their reputation and jeopardizes their physical safety.

Safety Tips

Be careful of the content you send. Once someone has a photo or video of you, it is very hard and mostly impossible to control what happens to it. Even if you’re in a serious relationship, think very carefully before you share any sexual images – whether its online or in a text.

Turn off your webcam when you’re not using it, check your privacy settings on your social media accounts regularly, and if you are aware that you’re a victim of revenge porn, make a record of what you can see and what has been brought to your attention by screenshots of where it is shared, prints and backup of messages so that you have the trail of posts if you need it later on.

Report any online abuse to the website or social media platform it has occurred on as they all have strict guidelines on how users can get intimate content removed.

Your biggest fear is always that the people closest to you will see the posts. Telling them first will soften the blow. Don’t stay silent – go to someone you trust and ask for help.

For victims of revenge porn, fight back! Speak out! Give yourself the opportunity to heal and move on. Get support, counselling – you don’t have to do this alone.

Other types of cyberbullying

  • Flaming and Trolling – sending or posting hostile messages intended to “inflame” the emotions of others
  • Happy-Slapping – recording someone being harassed or bullied in a way that usually involves physical abuse, then posting the video online for public viewing
  • Identity Theft/Impersonation – stealing someone’s password and/or hijacking their online accounts to send or post incriminating or humiliating pictures, videos, or information
  • Photoshopping – doctoring digital images so that the main subject is placed in a compromising or embarrassing situation
  • Physical Threats – sending messages that involve threats to a person’s physical safety
  • Rumour Spreading – spreading gossip through e-mail, text messaging, or social networking sites.

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