Frequently Asked Questions
We know that quick answers can sometimes help put one’s mind at ease. With that in mind, we have put together a list of questions and short answers to get you started.
When you give someone a photo or video of yourself which shows you partially or fully naked, or is sexually suggestive in some way, you’ve probably consented to only that one person having those images on the understanding that it will go no further. When that person violates the terms of your consent and distributes the photo (by email, social media, or even by just showing someone else), that act is the “non-consensual distribution of intimate images.”
The news media will often call this “revenge porn” but that term is inaccurate and problematic in a number of ways.
Revenge porn is the common, slang term used to describe the distribution of someone’s intimate image without consent.
Although the word “revenge” is used in this term, the act of distributing the image does not have to be motivated by revenge for it to be wrong. The key is the violation of the consent under which the image was originally shared. “Revenge porn” includes both intimate images distributed for the purpose of revenge as well as any intimate image that is distributed outside of the terms of the consent that was initially given.
Non-consensual pornography is another term used to describe the distribution of an intimate image without consent. This includes images which were taken with consent, and even voluntarily shared with someone but later further shared or distributed without consent of the person depicted in the image.
Choosing to trust someone enough to send them an intimate photo is not wrong. Sending them that photo is not wrong. Violating that trust and sharing that photo with others–or even worse, publishing it on social media or a website: that’s absolutely wrong. It’s not your fault. The Reclaim Pro Bono Project is aimed at using legal means to help those whose trust has been violated to regain control of the photo and get compensation for the mental and emotional damage caused by that violation.
The non-consensual distribution of intimate photos results in serious psychological and emotional harm. Since it is extremely difficult to control images once they are posted online, the extent of harm caused by having an intimate image distributed online without consent can be devastating.
In recent legal cases, judges have acknowledged that this form of abuse can result in serious and ongoing harm to victims.
This form of abuse is very common. With the rise in popularity of social media, the non-consensual distribution of intimate images has become an important legal issue. As reported in a survey conducted by the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative in 2017, one in eight adults have been a victim of having their intimate image shared without their permission.
If you are a victim of having your intimate image shared without your permission, you are not alone. You should not hesitate to seek justice. Please contact us for more information about the options available to you.
The key to most legal disputes is documentation. Take screencaps with your phone or computer, and make a note of when you took them. Write down in your own words what happened, when (dates and times), who you talked to about it, what you each said, and any other details you can think of. Keep any emails or messages (screencap them if you have to) that relate to the creation or sharing of the image.
The US-based organization withoutmyconsent.org has some helpful tools to help organize your evidence, including a helpful chart. Although the American legal system (and the legal framework around the non-consensual distribution of intimate images) is quite different from that in Canada, these tools are still very helpful.
We also encourage you to contact us for some legal advice, or course. We’re here to help.
Depending on the circumstances, if an intimate image of you was distributed without your consent both criminal and civil remedies are available.
The police are the ones who usually bring criminal charges, so if you want to pursue this option, you will need to contact them. We suggest that you consider contacting a sexual assault support centre for advice and assistance in pursuing criminal charges.
You may also be able to bring a civil claim against the person who shared the image and seek compensation through damages. Through a civil proceeding, you may be able to obtain a court order (called an “injunction”) requiring that the image be removed from a website, or requiring that the defendant destroy all copies of it.
Although it is possible to bring a civil claim on your own, we suggest that you consider hiring a lawyer (or coming to us!).
The first way that we aim to help you is by letting you know that you’re not alone. We’re people before we are lawyers, and we’ve founded this project in order to help people. We are advocates. We are problem solvers. And we are your allies.
Practically, we help you by guiding you through the somewhat unsettled and developing area of law dealing with the non-consensual distribution of intimate images. We will help you understand the legal landscape. We will advise you about your rights, how you may be able to call on the courts to recover damages and obtain an order preventing further damage. We will let you know the risks and benefits of pursuing legal action. And, if you want us to, we will represent you in court proceedings.
All of this, we will do without charging you for our time.
“Pro bono” is short for “pro bono publico” which is a Latin phrase meaning “for the public good.”
More practically, it is the tradition of many professionals (most prominently lawyers) to provide services voluntarily and without payment to those who cannot afford them. Spark Law, the law firm that provides the legal services through the Reclaim Pro Bono Project, believes very strongly that providing pro bono legal services is an integral part of being a lawyer. Simply put, we like helping people.
Yes. Whether you want summary advice or you want us to represent you, everything you tell us is confidential. We cannot tell anyone else what you tell us unless you agree that we can. Even your parents. In fact, we cannot tell anyone that you’ve even consulted with us unless you say that’s okay.