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Survey launch: sex work online safety advice project

Please find the participant information sheet and survey here.

Since 2015, the Revenge Porn Helpline has been supporting victims of intimate image abuse in the UK and those who have had intimate images taken, shared, or threatened to be shared without consent.

Within this time, the Helpline has become worldwide experts on tackling intimate image abuse and supporting victims of non-consensual sharing of private sexual content. We have supported over 10,000 UK victims, worked to remove 204,000 pieces of content, and built strong and significant relationships with social media and adult industry partners.

The creation of the Helpline followed the introduction of the law which criminalises the distribution of private sexual images and videos without consent if this is done with the intention to cause distress. Whilst this law exists to protect victims of intimate image abuse, the wording of this legislation has its problems and doesn’t cover all grounds. You can read more about this here and the current review being undertaken by the Law Commission.

This law defines a ‘private image’ as something that is not of a kind ordinarily seen in public. If the image/video has been shared publicly or made accessible so a member of the public can view it, it is no longer considered private and therefore this law cannot be used to protect that victim. This has created a somewhat grey area of our work and a limitation on what the Helpline can do to support in cases where a ‘non-private’ image has been shared without consent.

Over the past few years, we have seen a substantial rise in these types of cases from adult content creators, but also other issues too. This includes instances of voyeurism (being recorded performing a sexual act without knowledge or consent), threats to share sexual images, using sexual images to blackmail or ‘out’ an individual’s status as a sex worker or content creator. We have also seen the rise of non-image-based issues such as online stalking, harassment, and doxing. Whilst we know this is not a new issue, it is on the rise, and the support available in this field of online harms is currently inadequate.

To plug this gap where practical support is limited, we have teamed up with our sister service, Report Harmful Content (RHC), to develop a new project. This project aims to produce a website resource to become a hub of preventative advice, practical solutions, informative content, and signposting based on the experiences of sex workers and those supporting sex workers in the UK. We believe in supporting all victims of online harm and intimate image abuse, including the online abuse of sex workers and content creators even if their content may fall outside the law as it stands. Online spaces should be a safe space for all and we aim to collate advice on preventative tools and practical solutions for everyone to navigate these spaces safely.

Our services have an immense wealth of experience and understanding of online harms and dealing with reports of online abuse. Whilst we have extensive and successful experience working with intimate content, we can rely on the knowledge of RHC, whose work supports the UK public to report other forms of harmful content seen online and provide impartial dispute resolution. The strong relationships we have built with various services and platforms including social media, dating sites, content creation sites, and adult platforms have enabled us to create trusted flagger pathways to ensure content is quickly reviewed alongside the platform's terms of service resulting in a 93% takedown rate across both helplines.

To ensure this project is fully informed and providing the advice needed by sex workers, content creators, and support organisations, we have enlisted the research expertise from the University of Leicester to conduct a needs assessment. This three-fold needs assessment will speak with sex workers and content creators with lived experience of these issues, support organisations and practitioners helping to manage issues, and adult content platforms.

This survey is open to anyone in the UK who has lived experience of sex work to investigate their experiences of online harms and image abuse. ‘Sex work’ is a broad term but we’re using this to encompass all those with any type of experience within the sex work and content creation industry.

If you work with sex workers or content creators within a supporting role capacity and would like to be involved, please get in touch with the project researcher, Gaynor Trueman, for more information:gt151@leicester.ac.uk.

Please find the participant information sheet and survey here.

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