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How unwanted sexual images are shattering lives

2 Jul 2019

A new report from Durham University researchers is highlighting the extent and impacts of image-based sexual abuse.

Current laws related to these serious and often devastating forms of sexual abuse are too limited and are gambling with people’s lives, argue the researchers.

Although the report's authors welcome the Government’s plan to review this legislation, they urge them to act now before more people suffer.

The researchers are calling on the UK Government to give automatic anonymity to victim-survivors of all forms of image-based sexual abuse and to introduce a comprehensive criminal law sooner rather than later.

The report reveals the extent of the devastation this type of sexual abuse causes. Victim-survivors experience it as an extreme and intrusive violation that doesn’t ever stop, making them feel totally isolated from family, friends and society as a whole. Many suffer harassment and fear for their safety.

The impact is described by Deborah, a victim-survivor of image-based sexual abuse.

She said:

“It’s a type of rape, it’s just the digital version, like you’re still being exploited, you’re still being made very vulnerable and it’s still against your will…you’re being raped, it’s just in a different way, it’s just a new version of it.”

Despite the introduction of the new law on ‘upskirting’ – the act of secretly taking a picture under a victim’s skirt - many forms of so-called image-based sexual abuse are not yet fully covered by current laws.

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.

Katie Russell, national spokesperson for Rape Crisis England & Wales said:

"Through our members' frontline work with victims and survivors of all forms of sexual violence and abuse, we know the serious, long-lasting and wide-ranging impacts these crimes can have on all aspects of individuals' lives and health.

This is a timely report that reflects the range and extent of image-based sexual abuse, based on the evidence and testimony of victim-survivors and professionals, including input from Rape Crisis. We support the report's recommendations."

Read the full report by Clare McGlynn and Kelly Johnson at Durham University and Erika Rackley at the University of Kent.

Find out more about myths and facts related to image-based sexual abuse.

Watch Professor Clare McGlynn talk about changes needed to the law.