Lockdown will have had a ‘substantial impact’ on revenge porn cases, lawyer warns

Cases have nearly doubled since 2019


TW: Mentions of revenge porn

An abuse claims lawyer has suggested lockdown will have had a “substantial impact” on the frequency of revenge porn cases.

The pandemic has caused everyone to spend more time on our phones than ever before and caused the move of many people’s dating lives into a predominantly online space. The increase in time online means sharing intimate images and videos is only likely to have increased and therefore cases of revenge porn and threats to share intimate images will equally have risen.

Emily McFadden, Associate in theAbuse Claims Team at Bolt Burdon Kemp told The Tab: “I believe it’s likely that lockdown, and the movement of all of our social lives from real life to online, will have had a substantial impact on the frequency of these crimes occurring.”

The Revenge Porn Helpline reported their highest number of cases in 2020 with 3,150 people accessing the service. This is nearly a double increase on the 1,685 cases they received in 2019.

The numbers are rising rapidly and there is increased public attention in revenge porn, following Zara McDermott’s documentary on the subject with the BBC. But despite this increase in cases and attention, the legal system is not currently set up to adequately support survivors of revenge porn.

According to McFadden one of the biggest obstacles for survivors coming forward is that revenge porn is not categorised as a sexual offence. This means survivors are not given the right to anonymity via the Sexual Offences Act.

McFadden says this is a huge obstacle in making “survivors feeling confident enough to come forward to report to the police.”

Once they do report it the police another challenge is that the law currently requires “the perpetrator be proven to have shared the images with the intention of doing harm”. McFadden warns this can be difficult for the CPS or police to have enough confidence in the case and therefore many cases do not result in a criminal trial.

McFadden suggests the two year prison sentence for revenge porn is clearly not a “sufficient deterrent” because cases are continuing to rise. However she stresses the key obstacles at the moment are getting cases through to an actual trial and most importantly making the threat to share images illegal.

Women and children’s domestic violence charity Refuge is currently campaigning for the threat to share sexual images to become illegal. On 21st February the government acknowledged the threat is an issue, however changes have still not been made.

One in 14 adults have experienced the threat to share images and yet McFadden says the reason it is taking so long to make the threat to share illegal is because the law is slow to catch up with modern online offences.

McFadden is hoping for some positive changes thanks to the Online Harms Bill which will be going through Parliament this year. The bill is focused on “organisations’ responsibilities of content on their platforms” and will include a special online regulator and “clearer routes for people to complain to companies”.

But it is still not enough. Charities such as Refuge have been campaigning for months to make changes to the Domestic Abuse Bill, including making the threat to share images and videos a criminal offence.

One in seven young women, aged 18 to 34 years old, have experienced these kind of threats and so to get involved in Refuge’s The Naked Threat campaign click here.

If you or someone you know has been affected by this story contact Refuge on their free 24/7 helpline 0808 2000 247 or contact Rape Crisis online for a free confidential chat helpline.

The Tab’s Do Better campaign is putting a focus on the rising student sexual assault problem. Universities need to do more to support students and the culture around sexual assault needs to change.

If you’ve got a story you’d like to share with us – whether it’s about lack of support from uni, problematic sports socials, assault in lockdown or anything you think needs to be heard, get in touch in confidence by emailing [email protected]

Featured image credit via Taylor Grote on Unsplash

Read more from The Tab’s Do Better campaign here:

As men we have a responsibility to call out toxic behaviour in male group chats

I was blackmailed for nudes and it nearly cost me my future

An expert’s guide on how to support a friend who has been sexually assaulted