Calls for revenge porn to be made a sexual offence

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Calls for revenge porn to be made a sexual offence

Revenge porn should be made a sexual offence allowing for anonymity for those affected, according to campaigners. The renewed calls were made in response to figures obtained by the BBC revealing that police investigations into revenge porn have doubled in the last four years and yet the number of charges had fallen by 23% across the same period. These figures account for 19 forces in England and Wales.

‘Revenge porn’ is the sharing of private sexual photos or videos of another person without their consent and with the purpose of causing embarrassment or distress. It is classified as a ‘communications crime’ and became illegal in England and Wales in 2015, carrying a two-year maximum sentence.

Over the past year alone, over one third of those impacted decided not to proceed with their case. Sophie Mortimer of the Revenge Porn hotline, which offers support and advice to those impacted, commented: ‘We’d like to see it made a sexual offence because that would guarantee anonymity for victims.’

The Ministry of Justice and Home Office issued a joint statement: ‘When we engaged with victims and campaigners in designing the new law they accepted that the motive for this crime is almost always malicious, rather than sexual, which is why the law considers it a non-sexual offence.’

Such a move would put revenge porn in the same category of offence as the new ‘upskirting’ law, reported on here by the Justice Gap. The Voyeurism (Offences) Act 2019 came into force in April and added new offences to the Sexual Offences Act 2003. It criminalised the taking of an image or video under somebody’s clothing with the purpose of seeing their genitals or underwear.

Sophie Mortimer further called for the police to be given more training: ‘It’s all very well changing the law and making these things illegal, but if the frontline services don’t understand what the law actually means then you’ve only done half the job.’

Campaigners have also suggested ‘revenge porn’ should be renamed ‘image-based sexual abuse’, arguing the former connotes victim-blaming and therefore may prevent individuals coming forward.