Taking Action Against Revenge Porn

In a world dominated by digital platforms and social media, the ugly side of technology reveals itself in the form of revenge porn. It’s an invasive and traumatic act where intimate photos or videos are shared without the depicted person’s consent. Despite revenge porn being illegal in the UK since 2015, the fight against it continues. This guide sheds light on the intricacies of revenge porn, the UK law, and steps to take if you or someone you know becomes a victim. With an empathetic lens, we delve into the complexities, legalities, and ways to seek support.

What is revenge porn?

Revenge porn, often termed as non-consensual pornography, is a malicious act where intimate photos or videos are distributed without the depicted person’s consent. These private images, initially shared with trust, are exposed to the public or specific individuals to humiliate, control, or harm the victim. The violation strips away the individual’s privacy, leading to feelings of deep emotional distress, shame, and vulnerability. Such actions can have long-term consequences for the victim, both emotionally and socially. It’s crucial to underscore that the blame rests solely on the perpetrator, never on the person whose images were shared.

Recognising the severe harm it causes, UK lawmakers decided to act. Those who share or distribute images or videos without consent can face serious legal consequences, in the UK – up to two years imprisonment.

When did revenge porn become illegal?

The digital age came with numerous benefits, but it also had its downsides, one of which was the birth of revenge porn. It became such a significant issue in the UK that authorities needed to step in. In 2015, the UK government criminalised revenge porn. This means it’s been a punishable offence for nearly a decade.

Before 2015, prosecuting someone for revenge porn was a challenge. With its criminalisation, victims now had a more solid ground to stand on. The law, as it stands, ensures that those sharing or distributing intimate images without consent can be held accountable, with penalties ranging up to two years imprisonment.

Revenge Porn Statistics & Data

The emotional trauma and distress that victims of revenge porn can experience is significant, however the conviction rate is low. With only 4% of revenge porn cases recorded from 2019-2022, was the alleged offender charged or summoned.

The UK has seen a rise of 22% in sexual offence cases and the figure of alleged cases remains significant.

Despite the low charging rates of revenge porn, we found that 69.4% of people state they would report sexual assault to the police.

Therefore, there is a readiness to seek out support from our police force when a traumatic event such as a sexual assault occurs. Unfortunately, 43% of people report negative encounters with the police. Whilst, 65.1% of people call for police reform!

What does the law say about revenge porn?

Revenge porn falls under the umbrella of sexual offences in the UK. The law states that it is an offence to disclose private sexual images without the consent of the person depicted, intending to cause them distress. This isn’t just about images shared online; it can be photos or videos distributed through any medium, including messages or even print.

The core of the law revolves around consent. If someone did not agree to the sharing of their private images, the distributor could be charged. It’s not just about the act of sharing, though. Even the mere threat of disclosure can be prosecuted.

However, there are challenges. To prosecute, there needs to be solid evidence. It could be the images themselves, emails, text messages discussing the sharing, or even social media posts showing malicious intent. To ensure a successful conviction, the evidence should demonstrate a ‘realistic prospect of conviction’ against the defendant.

What Counts as Revenge Porn?

Evidence is crucial in any legal case, and this is particularly true for revenge porn cases. When it comes to prosecuting individuals for revenge porn, evidence is key to establishing that a crime has been committed. This can be challenging, particularly in cases where evidence is difficult to obtain, or where the perpetrator has taken steps to cover their tracks.

However, evidence can come in many different forms. This might include:

  • Images and videos, which can be used to establish that they were shared without the consent of the person depicted. 
  • Emails or text messages, in which the sharing of the images was discussed or planned.
  • Social media posts or messages, that demonstrate malicious intent or intent to harm the victim.

The reason that evidence is so important in cases involving sexual offences such as revenge porn is that, charging decisions are made when there is enough evidence to provide a ‘realistic prospect of conviction’ against the defendant.

What To Do If You’re A Victim Of Revenge Porn

We spoke to Ekra, a solicitor who works with victims of abuse and violence about what to do if you are a victim of revenge porn.

When you’ve suffered a traumatic experience, you may feel as though there is nowhere to turn. Victims of revenge porn can feel a variety of different emotions, from guilt, regret, and shame, however you must remember that none of this is your fault.

One of the most important things you can do if you are a victim of revenge porn is keep all your evidence. For example; screenshots or messages from the person who shared the content.”

These are the steps that Ekra advises when you have been a victim of revenge porn:

Report The Content

The first course of action you can take is contacting the host of the content. Most major websites and social media platforms have policies against revenge porn and will remove it when reported. Reach out, report the content, and request that the content be taken down

Keep All Your Evidence

It’s very important that you keep all of the evidence that you have. For example; screenshots or messages from the person who shared the content. 

Contact The Police 

We know that discussing a crime like this can be difficult, and many thoughts may be crossing your mind, however revenge porn is illegal and reporting it to the police can lead to criminal charges against the perpetrator. 

Seek Support

Being a victim of revenge porn can be incredibly distressing and traumatic. Reach out to your friends, family, or a therapist for support. Organisations such as SWGfL also provide confidential support. Additionally, you could consider support groups in your area.

Consider Legal Action

Revenge porn is a sexual offence in the UK, and should you consider legal action, I recommend you seek legal advice to discuss your options. If the perpetrator is found guilty they could face up to two years imprisonment.

Revenge porn is a violation of a person’s privacy and autonomy, and can have serious and lasting consequences for the victim. If someone you know is a victim of revenge porn, it is important to provide support and comfort for them.

How Can You Support A Victim Of Revenge Porn?

Here are some ways to support victims of revenge porn:

  • Listen and validate their feelings. 

Let them know that what has happened to them is not their fault, and that they have a right to feel upset, angry, or scared.

  • Provide practical support.

Offer to help them with practical things, like getting legal advice, securing their online accounts, or finding them a support group.

  • Encourage self care.

Suggest they engage in activities that will help them to manage their stress and anxiety, such as exercise, and spending time with their loved ones.

  • Respect their boundaries.

Let them decide what information they would like to share and how they choose to proceed – don’t make assumptions or avoid pressuring them into taking any particular course of action.

  • Speak out.

Be an advocate for change and speak out against revenge porn. Support efforts to strengthen laws and policies that support victims and hold perpetrators accountable for their actions.

Prominent cases of revenge porn and the outcomes

The unfortunate reality of our digital age is that many have suffered from the effects of revenge porn. Some cases gained significant media attention, shedding light on the severity and cruelty of this crime. Here are a couple of notable examples:

Is Anyone Up Website: This controversial website allowed users to submit explicit images of others without their consent. Starting as a platform for sharing images of band members, it quickly turned into a hub for revenge porn. It gained significant notoriety before it was finally shut down. The website’s creator, Hunter Moore, faced legal challenges and was eventually sentenced to two and a half years in prison in 2015. Netflix highlighted the site’s terrible activities and Moore’s subsequent fall in a documentary, further emphasising the dangers and immorality of such platforms.

Georgia Harrison and Stephen Bear: Reality TV stars Georgia Harrison and Stephen Bear became embroiled in a revenge porn scandal when Harrison accused Bear of recording her without her knowledge and then sharing the video online. This case brought the issue of revenge porn back into the spotlight in the UK, highlighting the emotional and psychological trauma victims experience. Stephen Bear was arrested in connection with the incident, bringing to focus the serious legal consequences of such actions.

These high-profile cases serve as stark reminders of the emotional devastation revenge porn can cause. While they’ve helped raise awareness, it’s essential for individuals to remain proactive in protecting their privacy and advocating for stricter laws and consequences against those who violate it.

At the Criminal Injuries Helpline, we regularly interact with survivors who’ve endured a wide range of abuses. Revenge porn, a deeply distressing and invasive form of abuse, is sadly one of them. This violation of personal boundaries and trust is not just morally wrong; it’s wholly unacceptable in today’s society. As we continue our work, it’s imperative to rally together, raising awareness, supporting victims, and pushing for stricter measures against such offences.

Methodology & Sources

Office for National Statistics – Data on crime in England and Wales: year ending September 2022.

RefugeData collected from (FOI) requests to 43 police forces in England and Wales, in July 2022 and received responses from 29 forces, 24 of which were complete and are included in research.

Criminal Injuries Helpline – Survey of 826 respondents.

The Crown Prosecution ServicePre-charge decision data.

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