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Mischa Barton refused to let ex “shame” her into silence over revenge porn plot

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Kayleigh Dray
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LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 15: Mischa Barton attends The Other Art Fair Los Angeles Presented by Saatchi Art Opening Night on March 15, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for The Other Art Fair)

Mischa Barton says she felt “rage and fear and uncertainty” when she learned of her ex-boyfriend’s revenge porn plot against her.

A few years ago, hardly anyone had heard of revenge porn – it wasn’t a known term, and few people knew what it involved.

In April 2015, though, it became a specific criminal offence that can land offenders up to two years in prison. And yet, despite this, there has been a significant rise in internet abuse, with over 400 victims contacting the Revenge Porn helpline between February and April 2016 alone.

Like these women, Mischa Barton – who shot to fame in The Sixth Sense and The O.C. – was blindsided when she learned her ex, Jon Zacharias, had made explicit videos of her without her consent, and that someone was attempting to release them to the public via porn companies.

Why? Because she believed that she was safe with him.

Speaking in a new interview with Broadly’s The Scarlet Letter Reports, Barton explains: “I felt like he was safe. One of his friends came to me and said, ‘You should be careful about him’. I’d already started to sense around this time that there was a problem, and then he started bragging about it to the wrong people, who came to me.

“But then there was still no specific proof and you’d just hope it would disappear. Finally, it broke in the press. I woke up one day to my friend downstairs and she was like, ‘Wake up. You have to get up because this is all over the press. And apparently, all these porn sites are looking to buy it’. And I was, as you can imagine, completely devastated.”

At the time, Barton admits she had no idea what revenge porn was and she immediately felt “rage and fear and uncertainty”.

“I think that’s what most predators are banking on,” she adds. “That you’ll have that shame inside and that you won’t fight back. And to be honest, your head is spinning and you don’t know what to do. But at the end of the day, I was raised much stronger than that… and also I had no choice.

“If he had done it before, he could do it again.”

After a lengthy legal battle, Zacharias and an associate, who also dated Barton, agreed to not to distribute any of the images and hand over the footage.

Barton’s lawyer, Lisa Bloom, tweeted about the victory at the time, writing: “Distribution of the explicit images banned, ex stays 100 yards away forever.”

“Today we have won an important agreement, which permanently blocks the dissemination of these images,” Bloom added in a statement to People. “All explicit photos and videos of Mischa must be handed over to me immediately. Her ex must stay 100 yards away from her today, tomorrow, and forever. And the court will retain jurisdiction over the case in case we need further enforcement.”

“I am proud to declare victory for Mischa,” the statement continues. “She did this not just for herself, but for all women and girls. Mischa wants everyone to know that we have the right to control our own bodies and decide whether or not to have explicit photos out there for the world to see. If a woman wants to do that, fine. If she doesn’t, fine. The choice is hers and hers alone.”

Despite the positive outcome of her court case, Barton has now admitted that she was terrified to stand up in court and speak up for herself – although she hopes the rise of the #MeToo movement will mean that no one else will have to go through what she did.

“It was extremely taboo. I had no idea what revenge porn was - that was completely foreign to me,” explains Barton. 

“[But now] I think we’re lucky to be living in a time now, finally, when we can bring the discussion of feminism back up and women’s empowerment.”

Powerfully, she adds: “There’s strength in the discussion.”

If you are in the UK and you think you have been a victim of revenge pornography, you can find advice and support at the Revenge Porn Helpline (0345 6000 459).

Image: Getty

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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