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Image-based sexual abuse report

Image-based abuse shatters lives, says a report by academics. Current UK laws are too limited and are ‘gambling with people’s lives’.

The authors say that lack of support leaves victim-survivors – men and women – isolated, often attempting to navigate alone an unfamiliar, complex and shifting terrain of legal provisions and online regulation. The report calls for a comprehensive criminal law to cover all forms of image-based sexual abuse including threats and fakeporn; and for the law to recognise image-based sexual abuse as a sexual offence. It calls for schools, universities and employers to put in place training and policies to effectively and compassionately respond to disclosures of image-based sexual abuse.

One of the report’s three authors, Prof Erika Rackley of the University of Kent said: ‘Victim-survivors experience image-based sexual abuse that is constant, ongoing and relentless. It not only shatters their lives, but also the lives of those who love and support them. Action is needed now. Many forms of image-based sexual abuse are not covered by the current law. The Government’s current timetable suggests that victim-survivors of image-based sexual abuse will have to wait until at least 2022 for vital new laws to protect their anonymity and criminalise threats and fakeporn.’

Image-based sexual abuse refers to a broad range of abusive behaviours, including the taking and/or distribution of nude or sexual images without consent, and threats to do so, which includes so-called ‘revenge porn’, ‘upskirting’, ‘fakeporn’, sexual extortion and videos of sexual assaults and rapes.

The report makes the point that use of technology to alter videos or images, to make them sexual, is a growing problem: for example, taking a profile picture from Facebook and digitally altering it, to make it sexual or pornographic. According to the report: “Participants identified a range of motives, including control, attention seeking, jealousy, obsession, misogyny and lad culture, sexual gratification, a ‘prank’, distress, humiliation, entitlement, and to build up social capital.”

Read the full report, Shattering Lives and Myths: A Report on Image-Based Sexual Abuse by Clare McGlynn and Kelly Johnson at Durham University and Erika Rackley; on the Durham website.


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