Every person in Germany has the right to sexual self-determination and the right to their own image. These rights can be massively violated by certain types of behavior. For example, if someone creates or distributes intimate or sex-related image content without the permission of the person concerned. This topic explains the various forms of image-based sexualized violence and the role played by the abusive use of artificial intelligence (deepnudes, deepfakes). On this page, we also provide tips and show possible courses of action for those affected and their supporters.

What is image-based sexualized violence?

We speak of "image-based sexualized violence" when one or more of the following situations occur. Digital technologies are deliberately used to disseminate intimate and sex-related media content without the  

  1. disseminate without the consent of the person concerned,
  2. create such content without the consent of the person concerned,
  3. threaten their dissemination.

The media content may be images or videos. In specialist circles, this is also referred to as "image-based sexual abuse" (IBSA). On the subpages Dissemination of sexualized images, Creation of sexualized images and Blackmail with sexualized images you will find detailed information and examples that fall under Image-based sexualized violence .

The term "image-based sexualized violence" makes clear the extent and the considerable damage suffered by those affected, including the violation of their dignity, sexual privacy and autonomy. This damage can have a negative impact on their mental health. One thing is certain: Sexualized violence through images is a form of abuse and is highly stressful for those affected.

AI facilitates image-based sexualized violence

The manipulation of media content is not a new phenomenon. Not even in the area of intimate and sexual images. Programs such as Photoshop, for example, revolutionized digital image editing back in the 1990s, opening up new ways of creating "fakes". Tools like these made it possible for "professional" image editing to find its way into private households beyond the purely expert circle. Nevertheless, the use of such editing programs was always associated with a certain amount of know-how, cost and time. However, artificial intelligence, or more precisely, advances in the field of generative AI, havefundamentally changedthe possibilities of manipulation today .  

Generative AI technologies make it possible for media content such as texts, images, videos or audio recordings to be modified and even artificially produced. The special thing about this is above all the mass and increasingly high quality of the manipulated image content.Online, anyone can easily gain access to numerous AI tools, which are initially free in the trial version. With just a few clicks , any amount of content can be created within a very short time. In most cases, not much prior technical knowledge  is required to use such applications. Depending on how good the program is, the quality of the results is quite high. Artificially generated content is then difficult to distinguish from real images. 

Of course, AI-based tools can be used positively and sensibly. However, they are also increasingly being misused. For example, to generate sexual images and videos of people. Against this backdrop, deepnudes and deepfake porn are increasingly becoming a problem.

For many of those affected, it does not matter whether the images are "real" or fakes created with the help of AI. They are at the mercy of a situation in which they are deliberately exposed and humiliated. Once such images or videos are in circulation, this can be extremely damaging to the reputation of the person concerned or even result in social exclusion. At school, at home, when looking for a job and at work. Those affected are therefore always accompanied by the fear that others could see this content. Even if is "only" fake: The better the fakes are, the harder it is to convince others that the content is not true.

How can I support those affected?

We have endeavored to formulate the tips here in general terms so that they are helpful for as large a group as possible. Therefore, please bear in mind when reading that it makes a big differencewhether the persons concerned are children, young people or adults. Abusive images of children are legally considered child pornography and are subject to an absolute ban on possession and distribution. Young people (persons between the ages of 14 and 18) are also particularly protected by law in Germany. So if you are confronted with intimate images of children or young people, find out about the correct procedure from reporting offices or the police. It is important that you do not make yourself liable to prosecution. You can find basic information on this in our article "How to react correctly to depictions of abuse online".

If intimate recordings have been made or distributed, do not reproach those affected! This could lead to the person concerned withdrawing and rejecting important help. It is important that you give the person concerned the feeling that they are safe and understood by you. Make it clear to yourself and others that the wrongdoing lies in the unauthorized distribution and creation of the images or videos. Encourage those affected in their decision to get help and confide in someone with their problem. This requires a lot of overcoming and courage.

Don't be afraid to ask about thoughts or actions that endanger yourself or others. In this way, you can protect the mental and physical health of the person concerned and third parties. Together with the person concerned, consider how the dangerous situation can be de-escalated and which persons should be entrusted with this task.

There are many support services that have specifically addressed the issue of image-based sexual violence. Victims can find support and advice there. People who are not affected themselves but want to help can also find advice there. We have compiled the contact details of some help and advice centers for you below.

Once intimate images or videos are online, it is important for those affected that they disappear again quickly. All major platforms , such as Facebook, Twitter and TikTok, offer the option of reporting such content. It is also possible to report the content to a reporting office(jugendschutz.net and www.internet-beschwerdestelle.de).  

The service Take It Down prevents the distribution of intimate images of people under the age of 18. Here, minors can have intimate images of themselves tagged with a digital fingerprint (called a hash value). This means that the images and videos can no longer be uploaded to the participating platforms. More information about Take it Down can be foundat here.

The service StopNCII works in a similar way to Take It Down, but is aimed at people over the age of 18.

It can happen that those affected suddenly refuse help. This may be because they are frightened at the thought of having to involve other people (e.g. advice centers or the police). In this case, continue to talk to them, assure them of your support and encourage them.

Help and advice centers

Nummer gegen KummerChildren's and youth hot line (anonymous and free of charge). Telephone number: 116 111 (Mon-Sat from 2pm to 8pm) and online advice by email or chat. Parents' helpline (anonymous and free of charge). Telephone number: 0800 111 0 550 (Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, Tue-Thu 9am-7pm). Website: www.nummergegenkummer.de.  

Juuuport: Free advice center by young people for young people. WhatsApp advice or email at: https://www.juuuport.de/hilfe/beratung.

HateAid: Free advice center for victims of digital violence. Phone number 030 25208838 (Mon 10 am - 1 pm | Tue 3 pm - 6 pm | Thu 4 pm - 7 pm). E-mail: beratung@hateaid.org. Website: www.hateaid.org/betroffenenberatung.

Sexual abuse helpline: Anonymous, free and multilingual help and advice. Telephone number 0800 22 55 530 (Mon, Wed, Fri 9 am - 2 pm | Tue, Thu 3 pm - 8 pm) and under Help-Portal Sexual Abuse.

Federal Association of Women's Counseling Centers and Women's Emergency Calls: www.aktiv-gegen-digitale-gewalt.de/de/.

What can I do as an affected person?

Here, too, we have tried to formulate the tips for those affected by image-based sexualized violence in general terms so that they are helpful for as large a group as possible. So please bear in mind when reading that it makes a big differencewhether the victims are children, young people or adults. Abusive images of children are legally considered child pornography and are subject to an absolute ban on possession and distribution. Young people (persons between the ages of 14 and 18) are also particularly protected by law in Germany.

If someone is affected by sexualized violence through images, it is advisable to first seek advice from counseling centers about what the right course of action is. The police are also a possible point of contact. You can also find initial information in our article "How to react correctly to images of abuse online". Among other things, it explains to what extent evidence should be secured and what options are available forreporting and reporting content to .

It is important to select the security settings in social networks so that as little private information as possible is public. The profile name should not reveal your real name, age or place of residence. Depending on the platform, you can set whether strangers can see your profile, whether they can write you messages or comment on posts. The more restrictive the settings are, the more secure they are. These settings can also be made retrospectively. Some platforms offer the option of deactivating the profile. This gives you time to think about how to proceed. You can find more information on the settings for Instagram, TikTok and co. on our topic pages.

You don't have to go through this situation alone. If you have someone you can confide in, you should definitely do so. If you feel that you can't talk to anyone around you, there are many anonymous help services available. In the box above, we have listed several advice centers where you can find help anonymously and free of charge - by phone, email or chat.

All major platforms , such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, offer the option of reporting such content. However, this process can take a long time. If, for some reason, reporting to the platform does not work well, there is also the option ofreporting the incident to a reporting office (Jugendschutz.net and Internet Complaints Office).

The service Take It Down (aims to prevent the unwanted distribution of intimate images of minors. If you are worried about intimate images appearing online, you can have these images given a "digital fingerprint" (called a hash value) by "Take It Down". This fingerprint is passed on to all participating platforms. As a result, no one can upload this content to these platforms. More information on how to use Take it Down can be found at here. For all persons over the age of 18, there is the service StopNCII.

Do not pay any money if you are blackmailed with intimate recordings. In most cases, the demands do not stop but continue unabated. This is because the perpetrators now know that there is money to be made from you and will try to extort even more money. The same applies if the perpetrators want more intimate recordings and threaten to publish existing recordings. These perpetrators do not stop harassing their victims afterwards, but have more and more material in their hands with which they can exert pressure. Therefore, do not trust any promises made by people who blackmail you.

You can do this:

  • Get help from advice centers (see box above),
  • file a complaint with the police
  • prevent the dissemination of images in advance (see tip above). 

Information for young people

This is what affected young people can actively do if nude pictures of them are online: Practical information at cell phone sector and Anna Naked.