Threatening to share intimate images and videos is still legal, this needs to change now

Join Refuge’s The Naked Threat campaign to call upon the government to make this law change

TW: Mentions of revenge porn and suicide 

Domestic abuse charity Refuge has launched The Naked Threat campaign, calling upon the government to make threatening to share intimate images and videos a crime.

Currently, the sharing of sexual images and videos without consent is illegal in England and Wales, however threatening to share these images or videos is not.

A survey by Refuge found that one in 14 adults in England and Wales have experienced threats to share intimate images or videos, and this needs to change now.

In the House of Lords this week, MPs are starting their committee stage for the Domestic Abuse Bill, including considering making the threat to share intimate images and videos a crime.

The former Director of Public Prosecutions, Lord Macdonald, said the current law is inadequate and that it must change to fit and reflect reality.

He said: “This small change to the law would enable the criminal justice system to offer the protection that women who are experiencing these threats need.

“The government has shown that it takes image-based abuse seriously, by making the sharing of images a crime in 2015 – but laws must be fit for purpose and they must evolve and reflect reality. ”

Revenge Porn Helpline, England’s only dedicated helpline for the subject, found reports of threatening to share images or videos more than tripled between 2017 and 2020. And in a study by Refuge, it found that young women are most at risk of threats to share intimate images or video.

In fact, one in seven young women have experienced these threats. One woman in particular is Nita* who was trying to escape her abusive-ex partner by moving to different locations.

Her ex-partner would stalk her and messaged her numerous times. When she ignored his messages, he would send her intimate images he had taken of her during their relationship and threaten to share them if she didn’t talk to him.

When Nita approached the police about this, she was told they could do something about the stalking but not the threat to share the images as he hadn’t actually shared them with anyone yet.

The change in the law needs to happen now. 83 per cent of the women who took part in Refuge’s survey said their mental health and emotional well being was impacted after the threat to share images, with one in 10 women feeling suicidal.

In order to help make this change you can sign up to Refuge’s The Naked Threat campaign to let ministers know you want to see a change in the law, sign up here. 

If you’ve been affected by this story Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247 is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week for free, confidential specialist support. 

*Name has been changed

Featured image credit: Chad Madden on Unsplash

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