CCRI Safety Center
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 guidelines below offer step-by-step suggestions on various paths you might consider. Some individuals may wish to follow all steps; others may decide that only one or two steps are right for them.
The guidance below contains a lot of thorough and detailed information. We encourage you to take your time digesting 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.
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 Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM)
If someone created or disseminated a photo or video depicting 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 image-based sexual abuse
These terms are often used interchangeably, and they generally refer to situations in which a perpetrator has already distributed a nude or sexually explicit photo or video of you without your consent. This includes both of the following examples:
- images obtained without your consent (e.g., by using hidden cameras, hacking phones, or recording sexual assaults), as well as
- images originally obtained with consent (e.g., you shared a nude or sexually explicit photo with an intimate partner, or you consented to have an intimate partner take a nude or sexually explicit image of you) but distributed without consent.
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 fakes” refer to audiovisual material that has been manipulated to make it seem like a person is saying or doing something they never did or said. Less sophisticated versions of this (e.g. images created using Photoshop or other image editing software) are sometimes referred to as “cheapfakes.”
* 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 jurisdictions have laws that can protect you if you have been a victim of nonconsensual pornography, sextortion, or deep fakes. If you would like to speak with law enforcement, it could be helpful to print out your state’s law. You can click on your state to see if there is a law against nonconsensual pornography, sextortion, and/or deep fakes.
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.
These State Guides were compiled by Without My Consent and can also be helpful to share with your attorney.
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.
1. What to preserve
- Preserve all evidence that may be relevant to your situation, including information about disputes, email, text or chat messages, results from a Google search of your name, photos, videos, friend requests or emails you received from strangers or third parties because of the posting, etc.
- It is critical to preserve all evidence, including the content that you believe is unfavorable to you. Failure to properly preserve all the evidence — even if you believe it may be negative or unfavorable to you — may result in sanctions or adverse findings against you by a court.
2. How to preserve and organize evidence
- To save a digital copy, you can:
- Save the webpages as PDFs.
- Take screenshots of the pages, making sure to capture the entire screen, including the URL, time, and date. This link has instructions on capturing screen shots: http://www.take-a-screenshot.org/.
- If the content in question is a video, be sure to download the entire video to a secure hard drive.
- If you have text messages or email that may be relevant, make sure you save copies of all the messages that might be relevant in a reliable manner.
- In addition to the digital copy, you will want printouts for your binder. You can take the binder with you when you go to your local police precinct, domestic violence clinic, or family court self-help center to file papers. Your printouts can then be attached to a police report or an application for a restraining order. The more organized your materials, the greater the likelihood that law enforcement, restraining order clinics, online platforms, and prospective legal counsel will be able to help you.
- Safety could be an important consideration for you. If you have been hacked, you may want to store evidence to a thumb drive, instead of your hard drive. If you live with an abuser, you may want to find a safe, locked, private location to store both your thumb drive and your binder.
- Use Without My Consent’s Evidence Chart: To help victims organize their evidence, Without My Consent recommends creating an evidence chart. You can use this document as the table of contents for your binder. Later, if you are seeking legal action, you or your attorney can use this chart and its attachments to create a declaration in support of your claim. Without My Consent also provides a sample evidence chart so that you can see what a completed chart looks like.
- When you reach out for assistance, be prepared to talk about the three most recent incidents of abuse and the three worst incidents of abuse — those may be two separate things. If there are more than three incidents, continue to fill in the Evidence Chart until you have documented every incident.
3. Consider Whether To Include A Litigation Hold Request
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.
- Note that although you can generally obtain IP address and other log information with a subpoena, a law called the Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. 121 §§ 2701-2712, may limit your ability to request the contents of communications and/or certain other data. For further reading on the Stored Communications Act, see Orin S. Kerr, A User’s Guide to the Stored Communications Act — and a Legislator’s Guide to Amending It, 72 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 1208, 1218-20 (2004).
Without My Consent Sample Litigation Hold Request for Information re: Anonymous Poster
[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:
- First and/or last names.
- Present or last known mailing addresses.
- Billing, subscriber, and/or user profile information.
- Telephone number(s).
- IP addresses used while accessing your service, along with the times and dates of such accesses.
- Alternate e-mail addresses (other than this address).
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.
- First, you can search for your name using a search engine, like Google or Bing, to see if any offending material is in the results.
- Another option is to conduct a reverse image search if you have access to the photo of concern. One site that offers this is Google, and their instructions can be found here: Reverse Image Search. If you are concerned about an intimate video, you can take a screenshot of various frames of the video and then use the reverse image search function.
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.
- Policy: https://www.blackberry.com/content/dam/blackberry-com/Documents/pdf/legal/terms-of-service/pdf/BBM_Terms_-_English.pdf
- Report: contact BBPSIRT via email@example.com
- Policy in Q&A section: https://blogs.microsoft.com/datalaw/our-practices/#what-is-microsoft-doing-to-combat-revenge-porn-content-on-its-services
- Report: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/concern/revengeporn
- Policy: https://www.tango.me/terms-of-use
- Report: https://help.tango.me/en/articles/2985328-how-can-i-block-report-someone
- Policy: https://telegram.org/tos, https://telegram.org/faq
- Report: firstname.lastname@example.org, can also use the ‘report’ buttons inside apps
- Policy: https://www.wechat.com/en/acceptable_use_policy.html (Users outside of China), https://weixin.qq.com/cgi-bin/readtemplate?lang=en&t=weixin_agreement&s=default&cc=CN (Users in China)
- Policy: https://www.whatsapp.com/legal/client
- Report: https://faq.whatsapp.com/general/security-and-privacy/staying-safe-on-whatsapp/?lang=en
- Policy: mentions “no pornographic material” https://bumble.com/en-us/guidelines
- Report: https://bumble.com/help/how-can-i-report-someone
- Policy: https://www.eharmony.com/termsandconditions/
- Report: https://support.eharmony.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/140/p/1/c/31/baseurl/www.eharmony.com/baseprotocol/https
- Policy : Prohibited content includes content that “ Is obscene, pornographic, violent or otherwise may offend human dignity, or contains nudity”: terms: https://hinge.co/terms/
- Report: report on app (steps on link) https://hingeapp.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/360010851434-I-need-to-report-something-that-happened-on-Hinge or 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
- Policy: https://www.match.com/registration/membagr.aspx
- Report: “Report a Concern” link on a user’s profile or at the bottom of every email… can also email Match Customer Service by clicking here.
- Policy: photo rules: https://help.okcupid.com/article/147-photo-rules
- Report: each distinct report link is on this page: https://help.okcupid.com/article/144-how-to-report-a-profile-photo-or-message
Plenty of Fish
- Policy: https://www.pof.com/terms
- Report: https://help.pof.com/hc/en-us/articles/360042112872-Reporting-a-Member
Gaming, Social Media, and Other Sites
- Policy: https://chaturbate.com/terms/
- Report: send an email detailing complaint to email@example.com
- Policy : https://www.linkedin.com/legal/user-agreement (8.2e)
- Report: https://www.linkedin.com/help/linkedin/ask/rhsc
- Policy : https://help.pornhub.com/hc/en-us/articles/360041719433-Non-Consensual-Content-Policy
- Report: https://www.pornhub.com/content-removal
- Policy: community guidelines:https://policy.pinterest.com/en/community-guidelines, nudity policy: https://help.pinterest.com/en/article/report-nudity
- Report: https://help.pinterest.com/en/article/report-something-on-pinterest
- Policy: https://www.tiktok.com/community-guidelines?lang=en
- Report: https://support.tiktok.com/en/safety-hc/report-a-problem
- Policy: https://www.twitch.tv/p/legal/terms-of-service/#9-prohibited-conduct (under prohibited conduct)
- Report: https://help.twitch.tv/s/article/how-to-file-a-user-report?language=en_US#MobileReport
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 find out if you are eligible for 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:
- First, consider if you would like to have a victim advocate, friend or family member sit with you as an emotionally supportive and helpful witness to the conversation.
- You can print out your state’s NCP, sextortion, and/ or deep fake law, or related laws, to show to law enforcement that what happened to you is a crime. If you know the state where the perpetrator resides, you can print that out as well. If you completed the document chart as described above, you can also show that to law enforcement.
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 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.
Someone is harassing me online, but my case doesn’t involve sexually explicit images. Where can I go for help?
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.
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.