Speaking up about her stolen photos
Her photos were edited and uploaded to a porn blog; now Gia Lim is sharing her experience of dealing with the fallout “If you fall silent, and you don’t talk about it, nobody will understand how you feel.”
– Miss Gia Lim (right) on being a victim of image-based sexual abuse
where intimate images and videos are distributed non-consensually to online forums by an ex-partner (see report below).
Criminal lawyer Rajan Supramaniam said that cases involving non-consensual use of sexual images and videos online have been on the rise.
He said: “This is due to the rapid growth of information technology and the popularity of social media platforms.”
Findings from a study published by the Sexual Assault Care Centre (SACC) – run by Aware – last year showed that about 10 per cent of their 300 plus cases in 2016 involved image-based sexual abuse or harassment.
This includes taking and distributing images without consent. The centre also dealt with a case of “sexualised photoshopping”, in which the client’s face was photoshopped onto another woman’s body, causing embarrassment and distress.
Among the dozen or so young women who came forward to share their experiences with Miss Lim is Clara (not her real name), 19.
When she was 14, a friend told her that a photo of her at the beach in a school T-shirt and shorts had been posted on a Tumblr blog, accompanied by a fake erotic story about her.
The photo was taken from her Facebook page, which had been open only to friends. The Tumblr post received more than 20,000 reblogs.
Said Clara: “Someone concocted a story about me peeking into the male toilet. None of it was true. But people viewing it do not know that it is not true, and judgments about me would be formed from that post.”
She made a police report, but little could be done as Tumblr is based in the United States.
She added: “Nothing could be done. And the nature of Tumblr is that things just get reblogged everywhere. Thousands of people have already seen it, and it just stays on the Internet permanently.”
Lawyer Suang Wijaya, an associate from Eugene Thuraisingam LLP said: “Under Singapore law, one generally does not have the power to restrict or control the republication or use of one’s photographs which have already been published.
“Parliament may consider enacting legislation to better protect image rights, to increase the types of situations in which the subject of a photograph which has already been published may sue for inappropriate use or re-publication of that photograph of him or her.
“However, care should be taken in the drafting of such legislation, so as not to outlaw socially acceptable use or republication of photographs.”
SACC manager Anisha Joseph agreed that current laws may be insufficient in protecting people who are being subjected to sexual abuse online.
“The law should effectively safeguard rights in online spaces as well as offline ones. We hope authorities will consider stronger and quicker remedies, especially given the time-sensitive nature of some cyber sexual crimes.”
Ms Joseph added that victims can reach out to SACC for emotional support through counselling and support groups, and to understand what options are available. These include taking snapshots to gather evidence, making a police report and/or a magistrate’s complaint, or applying for court orders under the Protection from Harassment Act that require the harasser to stop the harassment, for instance by taking down what has been posted online.
TNP understands that one way to remove photos from Tumblr is by submitting a copyright claim to Tumblr, under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a US copyright law.
Miss Lim had to repeatedly contact individual blog owners to get her photos taken down.
She is glad to have started a conversation on the topic.
She said: “My friend told me that when he was chatting with friends in the army, someone mentioned my video, which led to a discussion on how they should be more respectful to their female friends.
“When you have enough people speaking up, change can be enacted.”