Cyber Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI)
Guide for Media
CCRI appreciates media outlets that cover the important issue of image-based sexual abuse. The guidelines below may help journalists craft their coverage in a manner that is safe and respectful of victims and survivors.
Media can play an important role in linking victims to helpful resources and services. One way to share this vital information is to include an advisory at the start or end of an article, and on social media posts. Here is an example:
If you or someone you know is a victim of nonconsensual distribution of intimate images (NDII), sextortion, or deepfakes, you can find support through Cyber Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI). The CCRI Safety Center offers a step-by-step guide and the CCRI Image Abuse Helpline is available at 844-878-CCRI.
Media can also inadvertently contribute to image-based sexual abuse by linking to sites that feature these images, or applications that facilitate such abuse.
- Never link directly to a site that features image-based abuse. Linking to such sites enlarges the reach and impact of the abuse, and may also carry legal implications in the many jurisdictions with prohibitions against image-based sexual abuse.
- Where possible, consider not naming sites or applications implicated in image-based sexual abuse so as not to give them more publicity or increase their profits.
Terminology can be confusing, even for those who have been studying image-based sexual abuse for some time.
- This glossary may be helpful.
- One important reminder is to try to avoid the term “revenge porn.”
- The word “revenge” suggests that the victim did something to cause the violation of their intimate privacy. This lays blame on the victim, instead of the offender.
- Further, the phrase “revenge porn” erases situations where the offender is motivated not by personal grievance, but instead seeks financial gain, social status, gratification of voyeuristic impulses, or entertainment.
- The recommendations related to language are relevant both to article content and to headlines. While often written by different departments, it is helpful when all staff working on a piece implement the suggestions in this guide.
Asking sensitive, open-ended questions can help victims and survivors feel safe in an interview and encourage positive culture change. Some examples are below:
- “What did the offender do?”
- “How did the offender do this?”
- “What impact did the offender’s actions have on your physical safety, emotional well-being, livelihood, education, family and friends?”
- “What would justice look like to you?”
- “What do you wish law enforcement/ elected officials/ businesses/ universities knew about image-based sexual abuse?”
- “What else would you like to share about your experience?”
Conversely, questions and statements that could be interpreted as shifting blame or responsibility onto victims and survivors are best avoided. Some examples to avoid include:
- “Do you regret taking/texting a nude image?”
- “So, you’ll never send another nude image again, will you?”
- “Why did you save your nude image on your computer?”
- “If you don’t speak up, this will keep happening.”
- “You owe it to other victims to speak out.”
The images that accompany an article, broadcast, or social media post can also help to promote safety, respect, and positive culture change.
- If you wish to post any image of a victim or survivor, ask for consent first.
- Where appropriate, consider an image of a computer or electronic device to convey the role of technology in the abuse.
At the same time, the wrong image selection or image handling could disrespect and humiliate both the individual you are interviewing and other victims and survivors. Here are some important tips on what to avoid.
- Avoid images of nude, partially nude, or overtly sexualized images, even if covered with a censor box. This kind of imagery can re-traumatize both the victim you are interviewing and other victims.
- Out of respect, please consider not searching for or viewing the intimate images of the individual you are interviewing, or any other victim or survivor, without clear consent.
- Where possible, do not disseminate any intimate images to colleagues or other departments at work, unless you have first obtained express consent from the individual depicted.
Victims and survivors may feel safest if their identity is kept confidential. If possible, you can consider offering some of the options listed below.
- You might offer to change the interviewee’s name, occupation, town of residence, or other identifying information.
- If possible, you can conduct an interview by phone or email. If meeting in person or by video instead, you can ask if the interviewee would prefer to have their voice changed and/or face blurred.
Victims and survivors who are interviewed by media for the first time could be unfamiliar with or confused by the process. You can help provide a smooth and comfortable experience for the individual by explaining some basics, as outlined below.
- At the beginning of the conversation, advise interviewees that they may state at any time that something is off the record.
- It could be helpful to remind interviewees that they can stop the interview if they begin to feel uncomfortable.
- You can also follow up on the interview by sharing a clear explanation of what information you will and will not include.