If you are a victim of intimate image abuse, you may want some help deciding what to do next. We know that every victim has a unique set of circumstances, and the guide below offers step-by-step suggestions on various paths you might consider. Some individuals may wish to follow all steps below; others may decide that only one or two steps are right for them.
This guide contains a lot of thorough and detailed information. We encourage you to take your time reviewing it, and consider asking a supportive friend or family member to help you think through which steps are right for you
Are you physically safe?
Has the perpetrator threatened to physically harm you or others? Has the perpetrator posted your address online or distributed your address to others? Is the perpetrator digitally tracking your physical movements?
If you are concerned for your or your family’s physical safety, we encourage you to contact law enforcement immediately. Please ask for assistance with safety planning, as well as eligibility information regarding restraining orders and/or safe housing.
Are you emotionally safe?
The privacy violation you are enduring may feel so difficult and distressing, but with the right help, you will feel better over time. Please remember that you are not alone.
There are many different kinds of online privacy violations, and it can be helpful to know what terms to use to describe what is happening to you. Some of the most commonly used terms are described below.
Child pornography or child sex abuse: If someone created or disseminated a photo or video of you when you were under 18 years old (even if you are an adult now), please immediately contact law enforcement and report this to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) through their Cyber Tipline at https://report.cybertip.org/
If you feel safe, please seek out a trusted guardian, teacher, school counselor, or therapist to help you navigate next steps.
Please note that the tools provided through CCRI on our website are primarily intended for adult victims of online abuse, and NCMEC is the best source of assistance for minors.
Nonconsensual pornography (NCP), revenge porn, or nonconsensual intimate image abuse: These terms are often used interchangeably, and they generally refer to an instance where a perpetrator has already distributed a nude or sexually explicit photo or video of you, without you consenting to that distribution. This includes both of the following examples:
Sextortion or sexual extortion: This term describes a situation involving a perpetrator who is threatening to distribute (but has not yet distributed) your intimate photo or video without your consent. This is often done to coerce you into doing something that is against your wishes. For example, the perpetrator might be pressuring you to share more nude or sexually explicit images, perform sex acts, pay someone money, or stay in a relationship that you prefer to end.
Deep fake: If someone posted an image, video, or audio clip that seems to look or sound like you, but actually is heavily manipulated, this is often called a deep fake.
It is important to know that you may be a victim of one or all of these acts. For example, a perpetrator may already have shared your image online (NCP) and may be threatening to release additional images (sextortion) and may have manipulated and disseminated images of you (deep fake).
A number of US States, Territories and Nations have laws that can protect you if you have been a victim of nonconsensual pornography, or revenge porn. If you would like to speak with law enforcement, it could be helpful to print out your state’s law. This is a roster of state laws related to nonconsensual pornography.
There may also be other laws that relate to your unique situation. If you are in touch with an attorney, it could be helpful to see if any of these related laws are applicable to your case.
The next step may be to document the violations that have taken place. This is a critical piece for anyone who wishes to get a restraining order, file a complaint with police, or work with an attorney, as the documentation will serve as digital evidence for law enforcement.
Remember- right now, you may not wish to call the police or an attorney. In time, however, your situation may change, and you may ultimately determine that reaching out to law enforcement is right for you. It is best to document the evidence now in case a change happens in the future.
The expert attorneys at Without My Consent drafted the helpful guidelines below about capturing digital evidence.
2. How to preserve and organize evidence
We recommend that you save both: (1) a digital copy to a computer file; and (2) a printout that can be placed in a binder.
3. Consider Whether To Include A Litigation Hold Request
You might also need information from third parties — like websites and email service providers- who could have evidence relevant to your dispute. If so, you will need to ask those online service providers to save that evidence for later use.
Intermediaries generally maintain logs of everyone who accesses their systems (for example, to post information or send an email). These logs may contain information that can identify a user or provide other important information, including the date and time a user accessed the site, or the user’s IP address. An IP address is a numerical sequence — like “172.16.254.1” — assigned to every computer connected to the Internet that functions much like a street address or telephone number for the computer to which it is assigned. These addresses are automatically leased to internet users for a period of time by their internet service providers (ISPs). Thus, you can identify an internet user by asking a website for the IP address associated with the content, and then asking the IP address’ owner (the ISP) who it was leased to at the time in question. Generally, websites will not give this type of information out without a subpoena; but even without a subpoena they will likely preserve it for a while if you or your lawyer sends them a hold letter.1
Unless requested otherwise, intermediaries may not keep data for very long (some may only retain data for a month or two; others longer). At the same time, it may take a while to find the right attorney or the proper detective to investigate your case. So, in many cases, a hold letter may serve to preserve crucial evidence and increase your chance of success at identifying the perpetrator and having necessary evidence to pursue a legal action.
The litigation hold letter should at a minimum: (1) inform the website that you are considering taking legal action; (2) provide links to the material, and (3) request that the website provide to you now, or, archive and hold, all identifying information regarding the party or parties responsible for posting the material, including IP addresses. Here is an example of the type of information one might seek in a litigation hold request in a digital abuse case, seeking to identify an anonymous poster.
Without My Consent Sample Litigation Hold Request for Information re: Anonymous Poster
Our firm represents [client’s name]. Anonymous individuals are using [social media or tech company’s name] to [insert facts]. Our client is planning to take legal action against these anonymous individuals, and we believe that you are in possession of important evidence regarding their identity.
[Insert a clear description and screen shot of the event for which you are seeking IP data e.g., the anonymous web post or email.]
We write at this time to request that you take steps to archive and hold any relevant associated files, logs, or other data that identify or may lead to the identification of the person(s) who [refer to content with respect to which you are seeking identification, for example, “posted the [quote] comment/content under the [fictitious name] on [date] at [time] at [insert URL]” — including but not limited to all:
Failure to do so may lead to the spoliation of important evidence. In the alternative, if you would prefer, a production to this office of all records regarding the above-referenced posting, may make your continued archiving and maintenance of these records unnecessary.
How to Find the Images
You may have heard from someone that your intimate images are online, but you might be unsure which sites are hosting them. Below are a few suggested ways that you can search for those images.
If you took the images yourself
If you snapped the photos or took the video yourself, you own the copyright to them. To further protect yourself, you can take the extra step and register your images with the U.S. Copyright Office: https://copyright.gov/registration/ Copyright gives you the authority to demand that sites remove your images based on copyright infringement (also known as a DMCA takedown).
If you want to submit your own DMCA takedown notices, you may need to find contact information for the site owner. You can do this by searching the domain name on DomainTools.com. Remember, you want to contact the site owner and the host, not the “registrar” shown on the whois info listed.
If you would like additional information regarding the copyright and DMCA process, the expert team at Without My Consent has created this guide that may be useful.
How to Request Removal
Even if someone else took the image and you do not own the copyright, you can still ask a website to remove an intimate image if you did not consent to its distribution.
If you have documented the images, or if you prefer to skip that step, you can move on to requesting image removal from web sites. Remember, if the images are removed before legal professionals collect digital forensic data, crucial evidence could be destroyed. Do consider this carefully before requesting image removal.
We worked with a handful of tech companies to create this step-by-step guide for image take-down requests. Additionally, the list below features links to policies and reporting forms for a number of major websites that are not included in our guide. We try to keep these updated, though some may be out of date.
submit request https://hingeapp.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/requests/new?ticket_form_id=360002147333 or use live chat (click on write to us) https://hingeapp.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/360010851434-I-need-to-report-something-that-happened-on-Hinge
Plenty of Fish
Gaming, Social Media, and Other Sites
Consider talking to a victim advocate or social worker in your town or city. Victim advocates can help you gather evidence, accompany you to the police or a lawyer’s office, figure out how to keep you safe, and help you get a protection order against the person targeting you. In the US, victim advocates can be found in police stations, rape crisis centers, domestic violence prevention centers, offices of state attorneys general, sheriff’s offices, and county offices.
Since online abuses include newer crime types, some law enforcement officials may still be unfamiliar with what next steps could be appropriate for you. Some of the tips below may help you to feel comfortable and empowered when speaking with law enforcement:
FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)
If you would like to file a report with the FBI regarding the sextortion attempt, you can do so here: https://www.ic3.gov/
If you have any questions about how to move ahead with a criminal or civil case, this roster includes attorneys who may be able to offer low or pro bono assistance.
Image Monitoring Services
Many services offer online image monitoring for a monthly or annual fee. Please note that CCRI does not endorse or make recommendations regarding such any particular service. To decide if this is right for you, please select a service with care, with an eye toward cancellation policies and company reviews.
Survivors of online abuse who are based in New York state and who would like to connect with a therapist can contact Licensed Clinical Social Worker Francesca Rossi at her practice, Thriving Through.
If you are located outside of New York, you could search online for therapists with expertise in digital abuse. If you find few results, you could instead contact a therapist with experience in circumstances similar to yours, such as relationship wellness, assault, abuse, or other areas. You could even print out some information from CCRI’s website to share with the therapist if she or he is just beginning to learn about online abuse.
Check out HeartMob, an online support site for individuals experiencing online harassment. There, you can report the harassment you are experiencing and receive real-time support from others who understand what you are going through.
2. Where can I get help if I live outside of the United States?
This roster includes some international organizations that may be able to assist you.