This afternoon (29th April 2021), the Domestic Abuse Bill received Royal Assent, bringing a range of new measures into legal force to protect victims and survivors of domestic abuse and violence. Most relevant to us at the Revenge Porn Helpline, is the criminalisation of threats to share intimate images without consent in order to cause distress.
Why is it important?
It’s been six years since the original legislation and from the beginning we have known that threats to share was a serious omission. Consistently, about 20% of our cases feature these threats, often within relationships where there is abuse, or relationships that have broken down but a former partner is attempting to retain control over the actions of their ex. The statistics are stark: 75% of victims of this threat are female and, where the perpetrator has been identified, 67% of them are male and 65% of THEM are current or former partners.
There are many variations on this behaviour, but the most common is, following or during the breakdown of a relationship, the male party threatens to share private, sexual images of the female party. Why? To keep them in the relationship; to control the public narrative about the break-up; to keep the victim under their control; or just because they can.
What can we do?
Often, the threats are made to share the images on social media platforms for maximum exposure to friends, family and work colleagues. And this is a powerful threat, understandably causing huge distress and anxiety. But we can help: there is a project to stop intimate images being shared on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger and we can offer advice on going to the police and signposting to the best services to offer support.
We’ve been supporting victims of threats to share intimate images for six years. It’s good to have the law finally on our side.