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Everyone needs to do more in the fight against revenge porn

Posted on 07 September 2016 by Amelia Tait. Source: New Statesman

Everyone needs to do more in the fight against revenge porn

The annual Violence Against Women and Girls report has revealed more than 200 people have been prosecuted for revenge porn. Here's why that isn't enough.

As of today, we now know the exact number of people in the UK who have ever been prosecuted for revenge porn. Since the act of distributing sexual images of an individual in order to humiliate them became a crime in April 2015, precisely 206 people have been prosecuted. 206. Is that a good number? It’s a number. It’s much more than the zero the total sat at two years ago. It’s much less than the 3,700 victims who have contacted the Revenge Porn Helpline in the last year alone.

It’s a reasonable amount,” says Alexandra Whiston-Dew, a solicitor at Mishcon de Reya and manager of the firm and Queen Mary University's partnership project SPITE (Sharing and Publishing Images to Embarrass), a free legal advice service for victims of revenge porn. “It’s a reasonable number of prosecutions for a relatively new law.

Proving intent is quite difficult and it’s more difficult than in some other offences like harassment,” says Whiston-Dew. “In practice it means that if someone published a private sexual image and they were ‘just having a laugh’, not intending to cause distress, they couldn’t be prosecuted under the revenge porn law.

Due to this limitation, many successful prosecutions are against ex-partners who were acting after a break up, where a desire for revenge is clearer. Whiston-Dew has experienced cases where an ex-partner threatened to share images with a victim’s church community, family, or employer. In these instances, where threats and blackmail are involved, it is easier to prove intent.

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