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Why Do People Blame the Victim of Image-Based Abuse?

Many Indonesian female celebrities had gone viral on Twitter because their nude or intimate photos and videos were leaked. Just like rubbing salt in a wound, not only do they feel ashamed of their leaked images but they also get judged by netizens. Their names would trend on Twitter for hours, even days. The worst thing is that netizens seemed to not care about those who leaked it and only target those celebrities. After those photos and videos were removed from the internet, netizens who hadn’t seen them would immediately ask for those photos and videos from other netizens who had already saved them. Some netizens even would go as far as selling them. Those netizens also wouldn’t let the accident die out for a while bykeep on bringing it up again when other completely unrelated news about the celebrities comes up. 

Netizens call those leaked photos and videos “revenge porn” despite the fact that not all of them are revenge porn. The term “revenge” implies that the victims have done something to the perpetrators that justify their vengeance. However, in most cases, the victims had done nothing wrong to those who leaked their images. Furthermore, the term “porn” implies that those images are pornography. Meanwhile, explicit images that were intended only for your partner and not for a wider audience should not be considered pornography. Then, you may wonder what term should we use to call this kind of crime? Based on the research by Nicola Henry and Asher Flynn, non-consensual distribution of intimate images is one form of “Image-Based Abuse.” So, by using this term, we acknowledge that these celebrities are being abused by those people who leaked their images, asked for and sold them, and judged them based on those leaked images. 

The real question is, why do people blame the victims when those images were shared  without their consent? To answer that, Tahlee McKinlay and Tiffany Lavis conducted research on victim blaming in the context of revenge porn. From this research, we can find the reasons behind people blaming the victims of image-based abuse. The study found that the more explicit the image is, the more judgment the victims will get (e.g., photos of women wearing tank tops would be judged less than the ones exposing their breasts). This is the same case as asking the victims of rape how revealing their clothes were. More blame would also be put on the women who self-uploaded the images compared to those whose images were leaked by other people. Even though the women who got their images uploaded by others would be blamed less, people would still blame them for intentionally taking the photos. They said those photos wouldn’t be leaked if they didn’t take them in the first place and ignored the situational factors (e.g., she was committed to her partner and didn’t want the photos to be seen by a wider audience). Based on the research, people who are more attached to the traditional double standards are more judgmental toward the victims than those who aren’t.

Blaming the victims of image-based abuse could add more psychological distress to them. They may need more time for recovery because they need to recover from the shame and the judgment of people. In addition, they might feel afraid to ask for help and support from their families and friends because they’re worried that they will also judge them. In the end, they will choose not to report the crime.

Therefore, we need to stop blaming the victims of image-based abuse and acknowledge that they are victims who need protection and support just as victims of other abuses. Moreover, we need to understand their feelings. Blame the ones who leaked the image instead of them. Help them to find and report the perpetrators. Don’t spread the images if you have seen them or ask about the images if you haven’t. And stop mentioning this topic on the internet so the issue won’t go viral. Let’s stop victim blaming and protect each other.


Hanifa, Tia. “Call a Spade a Spade: Why the Term “Revenge Porn” is Misleading.” Green Network Asia, 21 March 2022, Accessed 23 May 2022.Mckinlay, Tahlee, and Tiffany Lavis. “Why did she send it in the first place? Victim blame in the context of ‘revenge porn.’” NCBI, 11 June 2020, Accessed 23 May 2022

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