Combatting sex crime in the virtual world

Alex Bisges

As University students, it’s difficult to imagine a world without internet. For many of us, a world without internet simply never existed. While part of the beauty of the web is its limitless information and abundant free speech, it does have its detriments. In the last week, celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton and Victoria Justice have become victims of sexual assault. Private, intimate photos of the celebrities were leaked online.
This invasion of privacy is only one example of how easy it is to commit crimes anonymously over the web. Sadly, the infringement of these celebrities’ photos is all too common in the cyber world.
It goes without saying that the web is one of the largest outlets for porn. While a large portion of the pornography distributed online is consensual, there is an abundant amount that is not. Whether it’s celebrity photo leaks or “revenge porn” from an angry ex, people (particularly women) get their privacy trampled upon. It’s easy to dismiss these sex crimes by blaming the victim, but this is not a solution.
Women and men have a right to express themselves sexually without repercussions – whether it’s someone in the public eye (like Lawrence) or a University student. It’s unrealistic to expect people to completely censor their private lives. Smart phones, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook—the list goes on—have created an expectation for people to document every moment of their lives.
When something private goes public, it’s unfair and unjust to blame the victim. Our attention needs to be focused on the person who infringed upon the victim’s rights to begin with, the attacker. Putting a victim on public display for scorn and derision will not solve the problem, but only distract attention from the perpetrator.
While there have been some people who have blamed Lawrence and the other victims of the celebrity photo hack, many people and corporations have supported them. Apple recently came out with an advertisement for Apple Pay. In the ad, Lawrence is shown wearing an Apple Smartwatch. The advertisement reads “Keeping your banking info as safe and secure as your most intimate moments.” The best way to combat “revenge porn” and other photo leaks is acceptance of the fact that there is a victim.
Acceptance can come in many forms. First, do not distribute the leaked photos or even view them. Second, act as an advocate for the victim. If you witness someone victim-blaming or distributing such photos, try to start a conversation about the victim’s privacy. Gently redirect the conversation to the victim’s vantage point. The third way to act as advocate against cybersex crimes is to support the victim. Apple did an excellent job of supporting Lawrence’s career and acting as advocate for her.
From here, I hope that Lawrence and other victims can continue with their lives without this horrendous violation of privacy looming over them. It will take courage on their part to continue their careers in the public eye, but it’s up to the public to accept them. From what it looks like, the internet is here to stay and that means more photo leaks, “revenge porn” and other violations of privacy. It is the community’s duty to approach these crimes logically, to understand who the true criminal is. The best retaliation will not come from the police or the government but from the populace’s reaction.