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The repercussions of revenge porn

It has been just over two years since the "Revenge Porn Prevention Act" came into force in Japan in November 2014. Under this law, perpetrators who are found guilty of spreading sexually explicit photos or videos of their former partners online -- in an act that is described as "revenge porn" -- can be fined or even imprisoned.

    However, despite the introduction of this law in 2014, many victims of revenge porn are choosing not to report incidents to the police -- because they are frightened of public exposure. "The introduction of the new law hasn't solved the problem of revenge porn," states one expert on the matter.

    Under the "Revenge Porn Prevention Act," a person who spreads a photo or a video of a naked human online to an unspecified number of people -- in which the subject can be identified -- can be fined up to 500,000 yen or imprisoned for up to three years. In addition, providing the same kind of content via social networking services (SNS) to a small, specified number of people for the purpose of spreading such images to an unspecified number of people also results in prosecution.

    According to the National Police Agency, the police were contacted 1,143 times in 2015 concerning incidents of revenge porn. This led to 276 prosecutable cases -- 53 of which were suspected cases of violation of the "Revenge Porn Prevention Act," and 69 of which were suspected cases of threatening behavior.

    However, although some victims do indeed go to the police, Noriaki Yoshikawa of the Tokyo-based "Safer Internet Association" -- which aims to remove sexually explicit photos from the internet -- states that, "We are approached by a large number of people, claiming to be victims of revenge porn, who simply want the material to be deleted quietly, without people knowing, without having to report it to the police and without the perpetrators being punished."

    According to the association, they were asked to deal with approximately 2,250 cases of revenge porn, between September 2014 and November 2016. Of these, the association managed to delete about 80 to 90 percent of the sexually explicit material in question. Looking ahead, the Safer Internet Association encourages any concerned victims to "consult with them as soon as possible, before the relevant material becomes widespread."

    In addition, many concerned people have also consulted with the non-profit organization "Lighthouse," which provides support to victims. A commonly occurring concern is "I become extremely anxious when I think that the material could be leaked online."

    Revenge porn cases also include incidents of naive junior high and high school students casually sharing private footage of their partners with their classmates -- without really grasping the potential magnitude of a sexually explicit photo or video going viral.

    The press relations manager at Lighthouse, Aiki Segawa, states, "Society needs to talk more about perpetrators' responsibilities concerning revenge porn, and the serious damage that it can unleash."


    'The damage affects the rest of your life'

    A female victim of revenge porn, who appeared on the home page of the Tokyo-based non-profit organization "Shiawase Namida" -- which aims to eradicate sexual assault -- recently wrote to the Mainichi Shimbun about her particular case.

    When she was a student, she was filmed in a sexual manner by a man who she was involved with at the time. However, after the pair separated, the man became threatening toward her, and one day she received a phone call saying, "The sexual footage will be made into a video and it will be on sale." She also received letters at her workplace asking for her permission for the video to be sold.

    After telling the man that she has gone to the police, the man said, "I will not do anything like this again." However, the woman ended up quitting her job, and still feels anxious about the incident. The woman wants people to know that, "The damage of revenge porn affects people for the rest of your life."

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