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What Rob Kardashian Did to Blac Chyna Isn't Just Revenge Porn — It's Abuse

Dr. Elizabeth Yuko is the Health Editor at SheKnows. She is a bioethicist and writer specializing in sexual and reproductive health and the intersection of bioethics and popular culture. She is an adjunct professor of ethics at Fordham ...

Revenge porn isn't just a problem for celebrities & can have serious mental health consequences

Rob Kardashian just demonstrated the dark side of social media when he lashed out at Blac Chyna — his former fiancé and mother of his child — through a series of posts on Instagram and Twitter on Wednesday.

First came the hurtful words. He said that she was a cheater and a fraud and called her a "crazy person" in addition to accusing her of infidelity, drug use and exploiting him financially. Next came the nude photos of Chyna, posted to Kardashian's nearly 10 million followers without her permission.

As the Washington Post points out, not only is revenge porn cruel, it's also illegal in California where they both live. The act — as well as disclosing someone's personal details online —can also have a serious impact on a person's mental health.

More: Using Storytelling to End the Stigma of Mental Illness

According to Dr. Alisa Ruby Bash, a marriage and family therapist practicing in Malibu, California, Kardashian has been open about having bipolar disorder, and this behavior may be an offshoot of that. But regardless of diagnosis, Kardashian has no excuse for his extreme oversharing.

Why it's harmful

Revenge porn is a form of sexual harassment and cyberbullying, both of which are strongly associated with depression, isolation and using substances or self-harm as coping strategies, Shadeen Francis, a marriage and family therapist practicing in Philadelphia tells SheKnows. And because your information was shared on the internet, it’s not like you’re hiding from a specific person or group, but rather “an entire digital planet,” she explains, which can make it harder for the target to find safety or work toward healing.

People like Chyna who have gone through this type of invasion of privacy can experience anxiety of the unknown according to Patti Sabla, a licensed clinical social worker who has a private practice in Maui. It could also result in shame, which can lead to low self-esteem and low self-worth and potentially thoughts of suicide, feeling there is no other way out of this dilemma, she adds.

These mental health issues are common among victims. According to Dr. Lisa Strohman, clinical psychologist and founder of Digital Citizen Academy, “studies cite that between 80 and 90 percent of victims suffer from anger, guilt, paranoia, depression or even suicide,” in addition to possible deterioration in personal relationships and feelings of isolation.

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“When betrayal occurs regarding intimate details, it leaves the individual exposed and violated, which can create traumalike conditions,” Lisa Bahar, a marriage and family therapist practicing in Dana Point, California, tells SheKnows. But it might not end there: Bahar says that in some instances, the victim may turn into the perpetrator and do similar things to get even or gain power and control over the situation, which perpetuates the cycle of violence.

In addition, the negative effects go beyond Chyna. It could also impact their child.

“As a parent, [Kardashian] has created a lifelong volatile and hostile future through an obviously impulsive reaction and lack of control of his emotions,” Bash explains. “I’m sure with such a betrayal, there will be lifelong repercussions, such as anxiety and fear of intimacy.”

But revenge porn and disclosing of private information isn’t just a problem for the rich and famous. “Unfortunately, what began as a way for scorned exes to exact revenge on celebrities, revenge porn has now made its way into ordinary people’s lives,” says Stacy D. Phillips, a celebrity divorce attorney who worked on Britney Spears’ divorce. “While the monetary value of this material may not be the same for regular people as it is for celebrities, the negative impact on the victims’ lives is equally as consequential.”

Advice to victims

If something like this has happened to you, chances are you were left feeling embarrassed, hurt and vulnerable. But according to Bash, it’s important to remember that this behavior reflects much more negatively on the offending partner.

“The hostility and betrayal must certainly be tough pill to swallow,” she says. “But be grateful that you are free from a relationship that could turn so toxic.”

Not only that, but the negative impact on the victim’s self-esteem could make them “more likely to engage in unhealthy relationships in the future,” Emily Griffin, a mental health therapist practicing in Germantown, Maryland, warns.

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Like so many other crimes, there is a tendency to blame the victim in revenge porn situations, chastising them for having a hand in creating the private content that was shared.

“A person who finds themselves in this situation should remember that they are not to blame,” Dr. Judi Cinéas, a psychotherapist who practices in New York and Florida, tells SheKnows. “Very often, people will feel embarrassed and want to go hide. If you need this to take a break from the mayhem, then do it for your own mental health, but don’t allow people to shame you into hiding.”

Although it’s the go-to reaction for so many of us, Sabla says that victims should also try to avoid negative self-talk — asking questions like, "How could you have been so stupid to trust him?" — because it will only make you feel worse. She also stresses the importance of allowing yourself to grieve.

And while the actions may be illegal, Strohman cautions against taking the matter to court. "Although victims can file civil and criminal litigation against their perpetrators, this can often create more harm to them as they face long-term legal battles that continue to create more emotional trauma,” she says.

Similarly, whether it is pursuing legal action or dealing with family — especially children — Cinéas suggests taking some time to get your things in order.

Moving forward

Unsurprisingly, most of the mental health professionals interviewed recommend that the victim of revenge porn and sharing of private details seek help from a therapist to work through their emotions.

If something like this happens to you and your trust is seriously violated, Sabla suggests surrounding yourself with your most supportive friends and family and avoiding those who may be judgmental at all costs. She also recommends sticking to your daily schedule because “we function better and feel safer when our brain knows what to expect by following our daily routine.”

Bash also would remind victims to put things in perspective, because as awful as it is in the moment, it’s “a temporary situation and time will alleviate some of the sting.”

“We live in such a fast-paced world that there is always newer, bigger news happening and our attention spans are pretty short,” Sabla adds.

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