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Britain urged to make 'revenge porn' threats a crime

  • Amber Milne

    Thomson Reuters Foundation

London, United Kingdom   /   Tue, July 7, 2020   /   12:15 pm
Britain urged to make 'revenge porn' threats a crime A British domestic abuse charity called on Monday for the government to make the threat to share "revenge porn" a crime, saying the change could stop more victims from having intimate images posted online. (Shutterstock/igorstevanovic)

A British domestic abuse charity called on Monday for the government to make the threat to share "revenge porn" a crime, saying the change could stop more victims from having intimate images posted online.

Sharing non-consensual intimate pictures is already illegal in Britain, but leading abuse charity Refuge said threatening to make such images public should also be made a criminal offence in a forthcoming domestic abuse bill.

The long-awaited legislation reached the final stages of debate in parliament on Monday.

Refuge spokeswoman Ellie Butt said women who report "revenge porn" threats are often unable to get help before images are shared, commonly either online or by sending them to the victims' relatives, friends or employers. "It would allow women to report this to the police with confidence that they're reporting a crime and they're not going to get turned away and told it only really matters if he actually does it," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"In some cases it could mean that the sharing of it never happens."

Digital sex abuse has become a common feature of domestic abuse, with one in 14 adults in Britain having experienced threats to share intimate images or videos without their consent, the charity said.

The threats alone can take a toll on victims' mental health, with one in 10 saying it made them feel suicidal, while one in seven feared for their physical safety.

Natasha Saunders, 31, a domestic abuse survivor, said her former partner had threatened to post intimate photographs he had ordered her to take as a way to increase his control over her.

"The threat of those intimate photos being shared was my worst nightmare – I had no choice but to comply with his continued abuse or face potential shame and humiliation," Saunders said, according to a statement by Refuge.

The charity's campaign has been backed by Victims' Commissioner Vera Baird and Domestic Abuse Commissioner Nicole Jacobs.

The government's domestic abuse bill includes a legal definition of domestic abuse and special measures to protect victims who give evidence in court, but women's rights groups have said reforms do not go far enough.

Campaigners have also pushed for amendments to the bill to ensure greater safeguards for migrant women and an end to the "rough sex defense" in which defendants have said victims died accidentally during consensual sex.