Bella Thorne was hacked and blackmailed, but her powerful response shows she won’t let her blackmailer win.
Revenge porn is legally defined as the sharing of private – often revealing or sexually explicit – images or videos of a person without their consent, with the intention of causing them distress or humiliation. Over recent years, high profile women have opened up about their own experiences, including Amber Heard, Jennifer Lawrence and Mischa Barton.
Now, actor Bella Thorne has shared a series of personal nude photographs on her Twitter after her online accounts and phone were hacked. She wrote a statement alongside the photos saying she has done it to “take power back”. The move has sparked a huge conversation around cyber-attacks, revenge porn and blackmail, and Thorne’s statement details why she felt it was so important to share the pictures herself, instead of waiting in fear for someone else to do so.
“Yesterday as you all know all my shit was hacked,” she wrote. “For the last 24 hours, I have been threatened with my own nudes. I feel gross, I feel watched, I feel someone has taken something from me that I only wanted one special person to see.”
She continued: “He has sent me multiple nudes of other celebs, he won’t stop with me or them. He still just keeps going. For too long I let a man take advantage of me over and over and I’m fucking sick of it.
“I’m putting this out because it’s my decision now. You don’t get to take yet another thing from me. I can sleep tonight better knowing I took my power back. You can’t control my life you never will.”
Thorne - the Disney teen star who went on to star in films such as Shake It Up, The Duff, Blended, and Midnight Sun added: “Here’s the photos he’s been threatening me with. In other words here’s my boobies. So here, fuck you and the last 24 hours I have been crying instead of celebrating my book while doing my book press. Oh yeah, the FBI will be at your house shortly, so watch. Your. Mother. Fuckin. Back.”
Thorne then later told The Hollywood Reporter: “This kid sounds like he’s 17, as much as I’m so angry and wanted to fuck him up over doing this to people I just wanted to teach him a lesson. He’s still a kid and we make mistakes, this mistake is a bad one. But I don’t want some 17 year old’s whole life ruined because he wasn’t thinking straight and being a dumbass.”
She added: “Plus, he’s obviously smart so if he got on the right side of the tracks he could actually possibly help our community and be an alliance. You can’t always tear someone down for their bad sides but more so build up their good sides.”
Whether or not you agree that sharing the photos before the hacker got a chance to was the best option in this case, it proves just how big a problem cyber-attacks are against women. It’s also opened up an urgent online discussion.
One fan replied: “I hope they find this person/group that invaded your privacy and tried to blackmail you for it! Kudos to you for taking back your peace of mind and freedom! And shame on anyone who puts the blame on you for any of this.”
Another added: “@bellathorne I believe revenge porn is a felony… I’m for you doing whatever you want, but you should prosecute anyone who’s legitimately threatening you. Please make sure the law is enforced to the person who threatened you; set an example.”
A third wrote: “Mad respect Bella. I truly hope you are able to expose this man!!! #freethenips.”
Cyber crimes such as revenge porn and blackmail, are making the protection of our personal photos and videos an increasing concern for women in the UK and America. And yet, less than half of the 225 reported revenge porn cases were passed to prosecutors within six months in Scotland. The Office for National Statistics also estimated that a total of 4.5 million cybercrimes were committed in the UK between 2017 and 2018.
So, what can women do in situations like Thorne’s?
Professor Clare McGlynn, an expert on the law on sexual offences, recently told Stylist: “For revenge porn to be a criminal offence, the prosecution has to prove that the person sharing the image had a direct intention to cause the individual distress. That can be done in many cases (sometimes perpetrators are stupid enough to write on Facebook posts of the images, “this is for you, I’m going to get you”, or words to that effect…)
“However, the law doesn’t cover the other motivations. For example, it doesn’t cover closed Facebook or Whatsapp groups. When images are shared amongst groups of men in these groups – and it is usually men – they don’t want the victims to find out or know about it. So you can’t prove they had a direct intent to cause distress to the victim, because they have no intention of the victim ever finding out about it.
“The law also doesn’t cover people doing it for sexual gratification, or to make money. In addition, it doesn’t cover hacked images. When someone’s phone is hacked, as has happened to numerous celebrities, the hacker is generally not doing it to cause the individual direct distress – sometimes they don’t even know who the individual is.
“So it’s a really important piece of legislation, but it’s limited.”