A Japanese woman in her 20s considered taking her own life when she became a victim of revenge porn. The term refers to intimate images or videos of a person shared without consent.
It has been illegal in Japan since 2014, but her story shows it's nearly impossible to stop such images circulating once they're online.
For Tamura (not her real name), the nightmare started last March with a message. An anonymous individual contacted her out of the blue, saying a video of a naked woman on the internet appeared to be her.
Her stomach sank. Shocked and anxious, she scoured the internet and soon found what she had been dreading: explicit videos of herself on a pornography site.
Tamura instantly knew where the images came from – a partner she had broken up with.
Her diary conveys the horror she felt:
"It doesn't seem real. My hands keep trembling and my heart won't stop pounding. I'm cold – even though it's a warm day."
The movies that should have been removed
Tamura first met him about four years ago when she moved to Tokyo for a new job. The man had a large social circle and seemed trustworthy. They started hanging out – but he soon began pushing for a physical relationship that she didn't want.
She says she became worn down by his constant advances, and ultimately came under his control. He made the relationship sexual, even pressing her to have intercourse in public.
It wasn't long before she noticed that he was taking videos of her during sex.
"I said 'No,' but he insisted. He said he wants my video instead of a porno film. I had become so dependent on him that I felt I had to do as he pleased."
Tamura decided that she had to end the abusive relationship when the man violently kicked her, leaving severe bruises.
And when she met him for the last time, she made sure he deleted all of the images he had taken of her during sex.
"I asked him whether he had deleted all of the videos," she says. "I even had him remove them in front of me, and checked that his 'deleted item' folder was cleared as well."
But he had secretly kept copies of the images elsewhere.
Tamura went to the police after she found the videos online, and they immediately opened an investigation. About a month later, her ex-boyfriend and another man who edited and uploaded the content were arrested and charged with violating the revenge pornography law.
But Tamura says the nightmare had only just begun.
The videos had been sold to a site where pornography can be downloaded. They were saved by users, who then shared or reposted them on other sites making an endless number of copies. On some of the sites, they had been viewed over a million times.
The comments compounded the hurt.
"She's dumb to have pics taken. LOL."
"It's YOUR fault. YOU deserve it."
"Don't blame those who share."
Someone even posted a private photo of Tamura from her social media account. People seemed to be excited to know who was in the videos.
"I'm sorry but this is my favorite type."
"How do you feel? You wanna die after being watched by so many people?
I'll go and jerk off again!"
The abusive comments escalated, and people started competing to find and share more details about her. They soon managed to figure out where Tamura worked, and someone even sent a link for the videos to her office. She stopped going to work.
"I felt as if I was being endlessly raped by someone without a face," says Tamura. "After watching the videos, they acted as if I was their ex, and started discussing my body and humanity."
Tamura says the experience left her devastated. She spent months in bed crying, broke out in hives, and couldn't eat or sleep.
Two months later, she was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
She quit her job, cut off all of her relationships, and even thought about suicide.
"I wanted to disappear quietly without anyone knowing. But if I killed myself, I knew people on the internet would only have fun with the story. And that would make more people find my videos. I didn't want to die when I thought about that."
Tamura started searching pornography sites every day to see if any of her videos had been uploaded. She consulted with lawyers and a support group and contacted the sites to have the videos removed.
So far, she has found 183 sites around the world that carried videos of her, ready for download. Most have been removed – but she estimates about a quarter still remain online.
Privacy sold in pieces
Police found that the ex-boyfriend had sold the videos of her for 150,000 yen (about 1,100 dollars) to the man who edited them. The man then sold clips to adult sites for about 10,000 yen each (about 75 dollars).
The prosecutors presented evidence from one smartphone that showed the perpetrator was concerned about the investigation.
The arrests of the two men were made possible only because the operator of a US site disclosed the offender's IP address and other information to the police. That's not usually what happens, because police have no authority to force an overseas website owner to share a user's details.
The two were brought to trial, and Tamura prepared a 10-page statement. But, she was unable to read it in court due to her condition. These are some of the words she wanted them to hear:
"My dignity and future have been torn apart by the hands of people I have never met.
I could probably be saved by those who love me. But I can't tell them what happened because I don't want them to know about the videos.
I want the two men to face up to what they have done."
The two defendants admitted to the charges. The judge gave both two-year prison sentences, suspended for four years. The judge said he took into account the fact that the two were on trial for the first time.
NHK contacted the men through their lawyers, but they declined to answer any of our questions.
Government discussions underway
In Japan, the incidents related to revenge porn are on the rise. The National Police Agency received a record number of 1,628 consultations last year.
An advisory body to the Justice Minister is now debating possible revisions to sex crime laws, some of which could make it harder to share revenge porn. Tamura is closely following the discussions.
Nakayama Junko, an expert on laws for sex crimes, says any changes to current laws would have their limits.
"The panel plans to create a legal framework that allows authorities to confiscate and delete sexual materials they find in their investigations," she says. "The discussion also includes possible legal measures to prohibit the act of taking explicit photos without the person's consent."
"But the issue of how to ban copied or re-edited images remains," she continues. Ultimately, Nakayama concedes that the "discussion may not immediately result in legal changes that prevent a victim from being continuously abused online."
Tamura believes the law should also make it a crime to copy illegal videos. And she wants stiffer penalties for those who try to profit – like the two offenders.
But for now, she is trying to pick up the pieces of her life.
"I want to forget about the incident and forgive the offenders. I want to let go of my anger and sadness – but I can't," says she.
"I'd like to go to a country far away where I could forget it and live happily. That would be my only revenge on the offenders."
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