• Clodagh Meaney

UK domestic violence charity campaign to criminalise revenge porn threats

Refuge say threats to share intimate images can lead to coercive control


A UK based domestic violence charity have launched a campaign in a bid to criminalise threats of revenge porn.


Refuge, a charity for women and children that works against domestic violence have called for the Government to make "threats to share intimate or sexual images or films" a crime.


It comes as the Government have begun the report stage of the UK's Domestic Abuse Bill.


Last week, they amended the bill to abolish the so called 'rough sex defence.'


This means that people cannot use "serious harm for sexual gratification" as a defence in cases where harm or death is caused to someone during sexual activity.


The Naked Threat campaign, which is backed by the Victims Commissioner and the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, urges the Government to use the Domestic Abuse Bill to make legal changes that would make a huge difference to the everyday lives of the women and girls supported by Refuge.


A survey commissioned by the charity found that 1 in 14 adults in England and Wales have experienced threats to share intimate images or videos – equivalent to 4.4 million people.


Threats to share intimate images are most prevalent amongst young people aged 18-34, with 1 in 7 young women experiencing such threats.


72 percent of women who have received threats to share were threatened by a current or ex-partner and 83 percent of women who experienced the threat from a current or former partner also experienced other forms of abuse.


83 percent said it impacted their mental health and emotional wellbeing.


More than 1 in 10 women felt suicidal as a result of the threat and 1 in 7 felt more at risk of physical violence.


"These figures paint a stark picture of the prevalence of this form of abuse women are experiencing, and how threats of this nature are part of a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour," said the charity in a press release.



31-year-old Natasha Saunders is a domestic abuse survivor who backs the campaign.


"I’d been in a relationship with my ex-husband for six months when he first ordered me to remove my clothes and pose for intimate photos," she said.


Natasha went on to explain how her then partner used the images as a way to control her.


"In the beginning, I thought taking these photos was an act of intimacy, but they were actually being used as another form of domestic abuse."


"He would berate me and mock my appearance until I gave in," she explained.


"Posing for these photos made me feel so dirty and worthless, but I was just a teenager and I wanted to make him happy."


"I never imagined these pictures would become leverage for my abuser’s campaign of isolation and coercive control," she continued.


"The threat of those intimate photos being shared was my worst nightmare – I had no choice but to comply with his continued abuse or face potential shame and humiliation."



Ellie Butt, head of policy and public affairs at Refuge, said: "Refuge is launching this campaign as the Government heads into the report stage of the Domestic Abuse Bill with a clear ask: the law urgently needs to change and the Bill provides the Government with the perfect opportunity to act quickly and decisively."


"Sharing an intimate image is already a crime – rightly so – but now the law needs to move with the times and recognise that threats to share these images causes serious harm regardless of whether the threat is then carried out," she said.


"The results of our survey are clear – this is a domestic abuse issue impacting millions of women and girls across England and Wales. 85 percent of respondents to our survey want to see this legislative change, and this cannot be ignored. "


Nicole Jacobs

Nicole Jacobs, who was appointed as the UK's first ever Domestic Abuse Commissioner in 2019 said that the threat of sharing an intimate image is a powerful way for perpetrators of domestic abuse to control.


"Threats to share these images play on fear and shame, and can be particularly dangerous where there might be multiple perpetrators or so-called ‘honour-based’ abuse is a factor."


"What’s more, the advent of new technologies enable perpetrators to make these threats even where such images do not exist, but there is no clear criminal sanction for this behaviour."


"I therefore call on the Government to use the Domestic Abuse Bill to criminalise the threat to share intimate images, as well as to extend the coercive and controlling offence to post-separation abuse, both of which would go a long way in better supporting victims and survivors of domestic abuse."


If you have been affected by any of the themes in this article, please reach out:

Women's Aid - 1800 34 19 00


READ MORE:

England and Wales officially ban 'rough sex' defence - but what does it mean?

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