What started as a mere squabble between two female students developed into a full-blown disaster leading to the leaking of a 21-year-old girl’s nude images.
Narrating her ordeal, Ama (not her real name) says she was non-consensually filmed back in Senior High School (SHS) by a female colleague who accused her of snatching her boyfriend.
According to her, the said colleague threatened to release the footage if she failed to end the supposed relationship with her boyfriend.
“She just came into the bathroom with a phone, started taking pictures of me and videos, she told me to stay away from her boyfriend or else, this is what will happen to me. Initially, I thought she was joking because who will be heartless to do that.
“I was on vacation, and one morning I woke up to a lot of messages of my nude pictures, it was scary, and I honestly cursed the day I met the guy; I literally cursed my stars,” she recounted.
Most often than not, the deliberate posting of a person’s nude and intimate images on the internet without their consent is to shame, exploit or blackmail the victim.
Ama, who was left feeling degraded and ashamed after becoming a victim of revenge porn, dropped out of school.
“I told myself I wasn’t going back to school because I couldn’t face all these thousands of students with a mere thought that they all know how I look without any clothes on. I was ashamed,” she opened up to Myjoyonline.com.
Dropping out of school, she says, was not the only harsh impact she suffered due to her circulated nude pictures; she revealed that she became suicidal after her mother threw her out from home.
“I was sacked from home because my mom said I had brought shame to her so that she couldn’t live with me. I was 16 years old then. Where was I supposed to go? That was when I told myself; this is it for me; I can’t live life like this without a mother even wanting to live with me. Crying out loud. I never took these pictures myself. I’m innocent.”
As sad as it may seem, there are many more people who have suffered similar fates.
Research by Domestic violence Charity ‘Refuge’ indicated that one in seven women has received threats that intimate photographs of them will be shared without their consent.
According to a Clinical Psychologist at the Ghana Police Hospital, Dr Foster Nenewotor, the shame and guilt suffered leave the victim with a lifelong impact.
“For the rest of your life, you are likely going to struggle to maintain a certain level of integrity. Studies have established that the effect of sexual abuse is similar to what revenge porn can have on people, where they can develop depression, they can even go to the extent of becoming suicidal, and so it creates a perpetual mental health burden for such people.”
Mr Nenewotor believes that the Cyber Security Act, which criminalises the sharing of the explicit content of an individual without their consent, will serve as a deterrent to perpetrators beyond the remits of the existing Criminal and other Offences Act.
Parliament in November last year enacted the landmark Act, which among other things, spells out sanctions for the publication of indecent or nude photos.
Perpetrators will be made to face up to 25 years in jail or pay at least GH¢30,000 to victims for circulating or threatening to circulate indecent images.
Even though its passage was met with open arms by stakeholders, not much has been heard about the implementation and its benefit to victims at the receiving end.
It has been five years since the incident but the traumatic impact has jeopardized Ama’s dream of becoming a lawyer.
According to her, she has become a burden on a friend who took her in, after she was sacked from home
“I still live with it, It has been five years since it happened but my life is at a standstill, I am not in school, I am not working either. I am shy to go out to look for a job because I think people might recognize me and reject me. I can’t be a lawyer. I depend on a friend who took me in, after I was sacked from home. If she comes home without any food we sleep on an empty stomach. Anytime I step out and I hear someone call me I get a panic attack,” she narrated.