2021 is well under way now and the Helpline has stayed busy, in fact it is busier than ever. January saw the largest number of monthly cases ever at just over 400, and the rate of new cases per day has risen even further through February. I wish I could say I was surprised, but I’m not. Because intimate image abuse is here to stay as long as we fail to make available the support needed by victims and their opportunities to find justice. We need to recognize as a society the devastation that online abuse can cause and place the responsibility for the harm squarely upon the perpetrators.
Looking ahead, there are reasons for hope in the future:
• The government’s Domestic Abuse Bill is moving through Parliament and they are considering an amendment to make threats to share intimate images a specific criminal offence.
• The Law Commission will complete their review this year on the taking, making and sharing of intimate images [link] and make recommendations to government for changes in the law.
• The Home Office has begun work on preparing its new Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy 2021-24 which aims to address the root causes and impacts on women and girls of the disproportionate levels of abuse and violence they experience.
But this is just the start and there is much more to do. We need to:
1. Fund support services like the Revenge Porn Helpline sustainably to ensure we can help everyone who needs us.
2. We need to be able to offer multi-agency support that makes the connections between different aspects of abuse to get the best help when it’s needed.
3. We need the resources to work together with the other experts in this field like the National Stalking Helpline and Refuge to effect meaningful societal change.
4. We need to work with industry to make it quicker and easier to remove more abusive content.
5. We need to educate, not just the young but everyone, to end all forms of abuse, both on and offline.