Selfies are a free choice, aren't they? You decide to take the picture, post it, have control over it. You think so.

But amid all those Apples, Oranges and Blackberries, there is a much darker side. The intimate photo that was fun at the time can suddenly turn up on social media as revenge porn.

christina mckelvie msp

That lovely boyfriend/girlfriend with whom you had a great, close relationship before it all went sour is now using those pictures against you, and there's very little you feel you can do about it. You consented to them being taken. You just didn't consent to them being used on social media.

#StopRevengePorn
Revenge porn is just as abusive as any other kind of domestic violence. It is an act that is exploitative, cruel, malicious and very, very damaging to its victims. Young people have committed suicide as a result of it; others have faced a life where they lose their jobs and are outcasts.

That's why Scottish Women's Aid is to be commended for its innovative campaign against revenge porn.

A mini-site within the SWA main site was launched in July last year. Its purpose is twofold: to reinforce the fact that sharing private moments with a partner isn't offensive – making them public without your knowledge is – and secondly to encourage more victims to come forward and tell their stories so that more people understand what is going on and just how abusive it is.

So it is vital that this new Stop Revenge Porn Scotland site gains maximum profile.

As abusive as domestic abuse
Decades ago, violent domestic abuse wasn't talked about or recognised. Women walked into doors or fell downstairs. Things have moved on although there are still, sadly, people in abusive relationships who are too frightened to come forward.

Their confidence has been eaten away by their partners so effectively that many end up convinced that somehow the abuse is all their own fault.

As Prevention Worker Ellie Hutchinson from Scottish Women's Aid puts it: "Domestic abuse is about the purpose of such behaviour. It's about control and humiliation. It's about power. Like a punch or a kick, the threat of or actual distribution of images is purposeful. It has meaning and intent: to retain and gain power and control."

You deserved it
You will have heard the argument that women – men too – somehow bring abuse upon themselves; they present themselves to be kicked and abused or even raped; it's their own fault that they allowed those pictures to be taken or that they didn't leave that partner after the first incident of abuse.

This kind of shaming and humiliation feeds perfectly into the mind of the abuser. "She asked for it." Of course she didn't. Trying to force the responsibility onto the victim doesn't work any more effectively in cyber reality than it does in physical terms.

Changing the conversation
Ellie Hutchison says: One of the most consistent questions that women are asked is "why did you send/take those pictures?" To me, this is just a variation on the "why does she stay" theme, with added shaming around female sexuality.

It places all the responsibility on the victim rather than the perpetrator, keeping his actions hidden and normalises his behaviour. This is not an accident. This is sexism. These victim blaming statements stop us talking about the men who do it, stop us challenging the websites who host these images and stop us exploring ways to prevent it.

"It's up to all of us to speak out against victim blaming and to change the conversation. The question we really need to be asking (and answering) is not "why did you do it?" but "Why does he think it's okay?"

So visit the Stop Revenge Porn Scotland site and add your message of support.

Together we can stop the obscenity of revenge porn.