A Limerick woman, who was the victim of 'revenge porn' is campaigning for a change in laws regarding image-based sexual abuse.
Megan, 23, whose last name is being withheld, describes the harrowing moment when she discovered that sexual images and videos of her were shared on social media three years ago.
“I was a victim of revenge porn in 2016, when I was 19," she says. "I had my photos and videos shared, it was sent to thousands of people. It was put all over Facebook. It was shown to my friends and family. It was shown to my grandparents and everything. It was horrible to have your family seeing you in such a compromising position."
As well as the videos and pictures, Megan, who was still in school at the time, says she was subjected to a tirade of abuse through social media.
“I logged on to Facebook to see over 400 messages — just bullying and abuse," she says.
"People were telling me that I should kill myself. I was ashamed, it was horrible to see all those messages."
Megan’s mental health suffered severely after the attack, and she was later diagnosed with PTSD which was, in part, attributed to the attack.
“It was really bad, all the hate. I suffered a very severe suicide attempt after it, because of it all.”
Megan, who took time off from social media after the attack, has been working with other victims to raise awareness of the issue. She has now returned to Twitter to promote a petition to make image-based sexual abuse, such as what is sometimes known as 'revenge pornography', a criminal offence.
Her 'Make revenge porn a criminal offence in Ireland' petition, which has amassed almost 3,000 signatures, states that: “Image-based sexual abuse is still not a crime in Ireland. Image-based sexual abuse is a huge violation of privacy and is a continuum of revenge pornography, upskirting, cyber-flashing, and many more.”
In the petition, which can be found at Change.org, Megan says: “I am publically asking the Irish Government for the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill be signed into Irish law including that those guilty be added to the sex offenders register and face a criminal conviction which could see those convicted jailed for up to seven years.”
Megan says that there is currently very little support offered to victims of image-based sexual abuse.
“I was dealing with it all behind the scenes since," she says. "I was trying to help people who had also suffered from revenge porn. But there is not a lot you can you really do if it happened to you."
There aren’t the services there, because it isn’t classed the same as rape or assault. When it happened to me, there was no one to turn to. There was no support.”
The 23-year-old says that her initial feelings about the attack were shame — but as time passed, that changed.
“I was ashamed for a while after it happened. But then I got thinking about it, and realised that I hadn’t done anything wrong. I was the victim. There needs to be more education around it to change the perception of it.
“It’s a huge issue which affects thousands of people in Ireland. When I was in school, it happened to multiple girls I knew. With Snapchat and Instagram and everything, it has become so much easier for things like this to be sent around. As well, young people feel pressured to do it — like its part of dating. There needs to be more information and education available to young people who are making these decisions.”
Megan says that she has been in contact with Labour TD Brendan Howlin, who has met with justice minister Helen McEntee. Megan says that she is hopeful there will be changes before the year is out.
The 23-year-old also announced she plans to set up a website to help people who are victims of image-based sexual abuse.