Woman's photo posted to porn site; perpetrator gets counselling

Author
RNZ,
Publish Date
Mon, 29 Nov 2021, 11:47AM
A woman had pictures she sent to an ex stolen and put up on PornHub. (Photo / 123RF)
A woman had pictures she sent to an ex stolen and put up on PornHub. (Photo / 123RF)

Woman's photo posted to porn site; perpetrator gets counselling

Author
RNZ,
Publish Date
Mon, 29 Nov 2021, 11:47AM

A young woman who was the victim of online image-based sexual abuse was left for months without any mental health support, while the perpetrator of the crime was getting counselling as part of his rehabilitation. 

The woman says that's not fair and even though she has finally found a therapist who'll see her, she's facing a hefty bill, because ACC won't cover her treatment. 

During the first lockdown last year, *Kate's life turned upside down. 

"A friend called me and said that a photo of me was on Pornhub. I looked and to my horror, it was all true." 

Alongside the photo were links to one of Kate's social media accounts. 

Kate had taken the photo years earlier, when she was just 14 and sent it to her boyfriend at the time. 

"It was horrible, I was not in an ideal situation, I was having to talk to police by email and I could see no one in person." 

Once the police were involved, the photo was taken down from the website within 24 hours. 

The person who posted the photo was not the original recipient - it had been sent to him by someone else, without Kate's consent. 

Kate struggled in the aftermath of what happened. 

For a few months, she was seeing a clinical psychologist and was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and PTSD. 

But then Kate's psychologist moved out of town. 

She contacted therapists, counsellors and specialist sexual abuse support services, but discovered many had lengthy waitlists or weren't taking new clients. 

"The system is so over-stretched, honestly it took me so long it felt impossible, even for a victim of sexual crime, suffering from severe trauma, to get help." 

Kate said she felt worse when she discovered through the court process that the offender was receiving regular counselling, as part of his rehabilitation. 

She said she got no help from the justice system - while the police made a referral to a sexual assault support service, the service never followed up. 

"I had to organise and pay upfront for therapy costing me over $1000 and after that ended I wasn't given any support from October until June 2021, struggling every day and desperately attempting to find someone." 

Kate has now found someone who can see her, but ACC won't cover the cost. 

That is because the offender was convicted under the Harmful Digital Communications Act - not the Crimes Act. 

That means online image-based sexual abuse isn't treated in the same way as other sexual abuse. 

RespectEd Aotearoa chief executive Fiona McNamara said even though this sort of sexual abuse is happening online, it is no less serious. 

"People can experience all the same trauma responses from digital sexual abuse as they can from physical or verbal sexual abuse." 

Green Party ACC spokesperson Jan Logie said the law just hasn't kept up. 

"Losing control of the image of yourself in a really intimate moment and to have that spread to at times millions of people is a traumatic event. 

"We do need to catch up with that and make sure that people get the appropriate support and that there aren't barriers in the way." 

ACC Minister Carmel Sepuloni said she will be asking officials for advice about how the rules could be changed. 

"Obviously ACC was set up 50 years ago, things have changed. 

"The digital world is real and we need to make sure that we have measures in place to take that into account." 

Sepuloni hasn't put a timeframe on how long it could be before any potential changes are implemented. 

* not her real name 

SEXUAL HARM 

Sexual harm - Where to get help 
If it's an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111. 
If you've ever experienced sexual assault or abuse and need to talk to someone, contact Safe to Talk confidentially, any time 24/7: 
• Call 0800 044 334 
• Text 4334 
• Email [email protected] 
• For more info or to web chat visit safetotalk.nz 
Alternatively contact your local police station - click here for a list. 
If you have been sexually assaulted, remember it's not your fault.