Clara was barely 14 years old when she began to meet a boy and he asked her to send him an intimate photo. Then, when they started dating, he wanted to have sex and hinted that if she did not pay, there was something that could hurt her. That day Clara lost her virginity. The boy recorded a video of the meeting, but Clara realized it and, after protesting, he assured her that he had deleted it. After a few months, after the relationship was broken, her ex-boyfriend tried to have something with her again. Clara refused and he threatened her with the video. After a while the images that she believed were destroyed began to circulate. What followed was a long process. Clara developed an eating disorder that she has not yet emerged from. He suffered what is known as pornovenganza: the publication or distribution of intimate images, without consent, of a partner or ex-partner on social networks or on web pages.

If minors are victims of this type of violence, the sexual content that is disseminated is considered child pornography. Digital sexual harassment has doubled in the last 10 years. According to data from the Ministry of the Interior, 1,783 offenses for sexual crimes were known in 2020. And that most of the sexual harassment in networks is not reported. This practice has increased among young people for two reasons: increasingly early sexualization, which occurs at the gates of adolescence, and the increase in the use of mobile phones or devices with internet access. The psychologist Marta Cabeza explains that this is a phase in which adolescents “want to appear older” and associate these behaviors with adulthood.

The legal process that must be followed to report these attacks is not easy. Encarni Iglesias, president of the association Stop Digital Gender Violence, points out that it is almost always anonymous violence. It is very difficult to prove the authorship of the distribution of the images and the blackmail through false profiles. The most advisable thing is to hire an expert who can verify the abuses, a tool that not everyone can afford.

To the legal difficulties, in the case of adolescents, is added, according to the psychologist Marta Cabeza, the fear of family conflict. Most young people tend to hide the facts from their parents for as long as they can out of shame. The psychologist adds that communication in the family is essential to make them understand “that you have to ask for help.” In Clara’s case, the school intervened and her parents found out: “It was the worst moment of my life.” Laura, another victim, also sent photos at the age of 14 to a boy older than her, which he later sent to his classmates. He did not report because he did not want to go through the shame and humiliation of his parents knowing that he had fallen into something like that.

The pornovenganza it is one more form of sexist violence. Encarni Iglesias explains that it is an abuse that has increased exponentially for years and is a form of intimidation, sometimes extortion, very common in adult women. “There is a sector that is not paying attention: that of women between 40 and 50 years old,” he adds. Especially, the profile of those who do not have a job and who, with perhaps older children, spend a good part of their time on social networks.

But in the adolescent age group and in schools it manifests itself beyond sexist violence. It also happens between partners. At the age of 13, a friend of Elena’s shared an intimate photo of her at school. She did it because she had felt a bit left out of the group for a long time and wanted to be noticed in this way and gain acceptance.

Pablo had a relationship for months with a boy and on some occasion they recorded each other while they were having relationships, both being satisfied. After a while, when they were no longer together and he met another boy, he discovered that his ex-partner had sent that video to a third person close to her new boyfriend.

To combat and prevent sexual abuse in networks and pornovenganza, all experts point to digital education. According to Encarni Iglesias, “in the 21st century, the deficiency is obvious.” Consider that until we are fully aware of the value of information and the loss of control over your image and your data once they are on the internet, the problem will not stop.

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