Heartbroken teens in city resort to revenge porn

BENGALURU: A 31-year-old techie was arrested on Thursday for uploading a fake and insulting profile of his wife on dating and matrimonial sites. A senior official of Cyber Crime Branch tells City Express that at least 10 to 15 cases of revenge porn and identity theft by ex-lovers are reported on a daily basis.

Mila Singh (name changed), a 24-year-old resident of Bengaluru was one of the recent victims. She had shared few of her intimate pictures with her lover, who she was in a relationship with for more than three years. When she decided to break up with him, he threatened her saying he would upload all her nude pictures online. Mila did not believe that the person she was once in love with was capable of doing such a thing, so she ignored his threats and messages.

Soon after, her friends informed her that a series of her nude pictures as well as screenshots of an impersonated chats with random men had been posted on her Facebook profile. She deleted her Facebook account.

A senior official says that the victims often do not want any record of their complaint or want to pursue a case against the accused, they simply want the police to help take the offending content off the net. “Anything that once goes on the Internet cannot be completely destroyed,” says a senior official, who does not want to be named. “When people come to us with such complaints, we tell them that we cannot completely demolish the virtual evidence,” the official adds.

Sadist Crime

The officials say that teens in their 18s and 19s are the most vulnerable age group when it comes to revenge porn and identity theft.“It is done to tarnish an ex-lover’s image and spoil their chances with anyone else,” says a senior official. Dibyojyoti Mainak, a lawyer who has been handling cases of revenge porn for years says that most of these crimes are committed by estranged lovers.
Under the umbrella of revenge crimes, one of the most commonly reported are fake profiles on Facebook. “A woman’s pictures are uploaded and labeled as a call girl. Their phone numbers are shared and then they start receiving harassment calls,” says another cyber crime official. In the last one year, only one case of a boy-victim was reported, where his identity was faked by his ex-girlfriend with a profile that said he was engaged to her.

Perpetrators are not criminal masterminds

Among the kinds of cases filed, officials say that most victims are not willing to report since that would mean court proceedings and evidences. “The victims usually come by themselves to tell us about the case and they plead not to report an FIR but only remove the pictures that are posted online,” says a crime official.

Dibyojyoti Mainak agrees and shares challenges of working with sexual harassment victims. The first challenge is procuring evidence of non-consent and making the victim comfortable enough to talk about the incident. “After we are through the first step then everything else is simple. The perpetrators are not criminal masterminds. They choose this form of revenge because it is easy to get away with it,” says Dibyojyoti. “When we collect enough evidence and statements for the case we approach the perpetrator to delete posts or else the employees will be informed. They immediately oblige. We can also make them sign an apology letter addressing the victim so that the victim will always have a permanent evidence of the harassment,” he adds.

Real-time nudes take over morphed pictures

Years ago, sharing of morphed images of an ex-lover was a common cyber crime. As of today, this form of revenge is a rarity as revenge porn has escalated to real, nude pictures of lovers.
The officials suggest that such photos not be shared, to avoid such crimes since digital footprints cannot be reversed.

Girl teaches her ex boyfriend a lesson

In another case, City Express talks to a 26-year-old woman who took revenge on her ex by emailing his nude pictures to his colleagues and friends. “I met him in a pub two years ago. I was with him for some months but then he started stealing my money and demanding huge sums from me. When I refused, he hit and abused me,” says Judith Ketura (name changed). “I gradually came to know that he had treated all his ex the same way but they had been passive. He used to refer to his exes as ‘whores’ and women in general as ‘sluts,” says Judith. “I did not want to budge and neither did he. So we were constantly abusing each other and I decided to take revenge porn on him.” The revenge porn defamed him so much that his parents had to leave the city and his friends abandoned him. “Surprisingly he still has a job,” exclaims Judith. Years later, Judith says she’s got immense satisfaction to have taught him a lesson. “He did not file a complaint because he told me that he would be the victim and I would be the perpetrator. He gave up.”

Why they seek satisfaction in revenge

Psychologist Dr Shubha from Fortis Hospital answers why estranged lovers seek satisfaction in revenge. She emphasizes three things that people invest in, in life: time, money and love. “To love and be loved is to feel the sun from both sides, which is impossible,” she says. “The time I gave you will not come back in my life so when love fails, there is desperation,” she explains. “The person feels rejected and believes that the transactional sacrifice (of time and love) was worthless and ego is hurt. Cyber crime comes in handy to tarnish a person’s image with the idea that if I cannot have him/her no one can,” she explains further. Dr Shubha has seen cases of revenge porn and says that a handful of them approach psychologists after going  through legal procedures.