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Whoopi victim blaming Bella Thorne on intimate images is dangerous and harmful

Whoopi Goldberg is making headlines for victim blaming actress Bella Thorne for taking intimate images of herself.

Thorne recently took to Twitter after being threatened by a hacker with her intimate images. Thorne posted her intimate images on Twitter to take her power back, writing “…U can’t control my life u never will.”

In a discussion on The View on Thorne’s response to the hacker, Whoopi said: “if you’re famous – I don’t care how old you are – you don’t take nude pictures of yourself” because then those images become available to hackers.

Whoopi continued “and if you don’t know that in 2019 that this is an issue, I’m sorry, your age does not – you don’t get to do that.”

Thorne responded to Whoopi’s victim blaming comments on Instagram saying that the interview “made me feel really bad about myself.” “I can only imagine all the kids who have their shit released and then they commit suicide” said Thorne.

A post shared by WESTCOAST DIVA (@thequeenofgossip) on Jun 18, 2019 at 12:30pm PDT

In a discussion on The View in 2017, Whoopi made similar comments about Blac Chyna, after Robert Kardashian posted intimate images of Chyna online without her consent. Whoopi said, “stop sending pictures of your body, stop!” Whoopie continued “learn from Anthony Weiner – stop sending this stuff!”

Whoopi’s victim blaming of intimate image abuse victims on more than one occasion reflects a pervasive and insidious attitude that victims of all forms of sexual abuse know all too well.

The kind of attidude that attacks and criticises the conduct of the victim, instead of the perpetrators of a crime. The sentiment that somehow the victim is at fault for the wrongdoings committed against them, or worse that the victim deserves the harm.

Words to the effect of:

  1. If they didn’t wan’t their nude photos leaked, they shouldn’t have taken the photos in the first place.

  2. She shouldn’t have worn that short skirt, what did she expect.

  3. Don’t walk home alone at night, if you don’t want to get raped.

  4. But the school boy probably liked it.

  5. But she’s slept with so many people.

  6. But she shouldn’t have gone home with him.

What happened to Thorne was sexual abuse. Period. It was a gross violation of her privacy, dignity, agency, self-determination and humanity. Celebrity or not.

Everyone is entitled to respect, dignity and to be free to exercise agency over their bodies and sexuality – on their own terms, free from exploitation and abuse.

Katelyn Bowden, Founder and CEO of BADASS, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing support to victims of revenge porn/image abuse said:

“It’s her body, and she has every right to own pictures of it without them being used against her. Celebrities deserve privacy like everyone else.”

Mia Landsem, activist fighting against intimate image abuse in Norway said that we should all be allowed to express our sexuality using technology, but shouldn’t be victim blamed for doing so.

Victim blaming celebrities like Thorne and Chyna is also dangerous. It reinforces a culture of shame where victims of intimate image abuse feel that they cannot seek help or talk about their abuse to others. It gives licence to perpetrators of this abuse by shifting accountability away from them.

Research out of Australia from Dr Nicola Henry, Dr Anastasia Powell and Dr Asher Flynn, RMIT and Monash University researchers report that “victims of image-based abuse [intimate image abuse] experience high levels of psychological distress”.

It was also reported that threats to distribute nude images are:

“…particularly harmful for victims, not only because of the consequences that can flow if the image is made public, but also owing to the acts that emerge from such threats, including unwanted sexual acts, restrictions of movement, exclusion from social life and monetary deprivation.”

This idea that in order to avoid or mitigate the risk of being threatened with your intimate images is to not take them in the first place, misses the point. Why is it our responsibility to ‘avoid’ being sexually exploited and abused? Why isn’t it entirely the perpetrator’s responsibility to not sexually exploit and abuse others?

You don’t hear people say things like, if you don’t want your car stolen then don’t own a car. So why do we hear victim blaming attitudes so often in relation to intimate image abuse victims?

And look, while Whoopi’s comments are disappointing, I really hope that this becomes a teachable moment. The ability to deconstruct and challenge our own views, biases and prejudices is integral if we are ever to grow and change. Nobody is perfect – I’m sure as hell not perfect. And while I can’t speak for everyone, a sincere apology and changed behaviour does go a long way…

We can be better. We have to better.  

Bella – I am so sorry for what has happened to you but I am enormously proud of your strength, courage and resilience through all of this. Just know that there is an army of support behind you.

Featured image: Left (Source – Youtube), Right (Source – Facebook)

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