Recent news reports have been abuzz with details of celebrities whose phones have been hacked and their private images made public. While this is appalling and a real violation of privacy, it is, sadly, a frequent occurrence in the lives of many women. Women like us. Women we know.
What is revenge porn?
Revenge pornography is the sharing of sexually explicit images without the consent of the pictured individual.
Revenge porn may be up-loaded by ex-partners to share or embarrass the individual. Many of the images are pictures taken by the individuals themselves (selfies) and more often than not, the victims are women. The uploaded formerly-private explicit images are often accompanied by personal information, including the pictured individual's full name, links to social media websites with access to profiles or addresses.
Changes to Legislation
In response to mounting political pressure to outlaw the practice of humiliating former lovers by posting intimate pictures of them online, the legislation is to be introduced into the Criminal Justice and Courts bill that is currently going through Parliament. Revenge Porn is to become a criminal offence in the UK, punishable by up to two years in prison. This has been announced by the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling. The change in the law will be made via an amendment to the Criminal Justice & Courts Bill, which includes a number of measures to toughen up sentencing.
The new offence will cover the release of explicit images both online and in the form of printed pictures. Images posted to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter will be caught by the offence, as well as those that are shared via text message.
The offence will apply to “photographs or films which show people engaged in sexual activity or depicted in a sexual way or with their genitals exposed, where what is shown would not usually be seen in public.”
Victims and others will be able to report offences to the police to investigate. Officers will work with the Crown Prosecution Service to take forward cases for prosecution.
Those found to have committed a sexual offence can continue to be prosecuted under existing legislation, which can lead to sentences of up to 14 years in prison.
Restored welcomes the new law.
“The fact that there are individuals who are cruelly distributing intimate pictures of their former partners without their consent is almost beyond belief. We want those who fall victim to this type of disgusting behaviour to know that we are on their side and will do everything we can to bring offenders to justice.”
— Justice Secretary Chris Grayling —
Education is key
While we appreciate that this new law will deter offenders and punish them, it is absolutely essential that more is done towards educating young people and children on relationships, self-esteem, giving consenting to sexual images/activity and issues related to valuing themselves and their bodies.
Children and young people are the next generation of potential victims and perpetrators of abuse. It is, therefore, vital to raise issues related to abuse and healthy, non-violent relationships while they are in a structured and safe environment such as school.
In order to challenge the myths that perpetuate abuse; gender inequality that underlies power abuse such as revenge porn and also its emotional impact, educational establishments need to have effective resources and tools. This is true for churches, too.
Effective strategies to discuss and deal with issues related to abuse require that teachers and youth leaders/churches are given the necessary training and tools.
We commend our alliance member Going Public. They are a charity based in Cardiff with a heart for investing in people through theatre, training, events and creative arts. Their team provide Theatre in Education resources for young people, schools and youth groups covering issues in the personal social health economic education curriculum (e.g. self-worth, sex and relationships, alcohol, identity and mental health) emphasising the intrinsic worth of each person alongside biological and physical factors.
If you feel that you might be in an abusive situation, help is on hand. You can contact the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247, or speak to Refuge using their online chat function. You can also get in touch with our Survivors' Network - we're not an emergency service or helpline, but we can stand alongside you as you access the support you need.