Help me to #BanRevengePorn
Next Monday, two amendments to criminalise revenge porn will go to the committee stage in the House of Lords.
For those who don’t know, revenge porn is non-consensual pornography. It’s where a person uploads an explicit image of somebody without their permission. Often the victim’s name and contact details are attached. Not only is it humiliating but it has the potential to reach out of the screen and destroy people’s lives.
The first amendment was submitted by a group of Lib Dems in the Lords. It states that ‘a person commits an offence if they publish a sexually explicit or pornographic image of another identifiable person unless the identifiable person consented to publication’ - this amendment would mean that the offender could be imprisoned for up to a year, as well as being subject to a fine.
The second amendment seeks to amend the Sexual Offences Act of 2003 to make revenge porn a sexual offence of a similar ilk to voyeurism. Perpetrators wouldn’t be placed on the Sex Offenders Register but it would mean that the offence would be treated far more seriously.
Both of these amendments have their flaws, the term ‘identifiable’ worries me in the first one – when an ex uploaded images of me, they didn’t necessarily include my face. I’d have concerns as to how identifiable the images would need to be before an offence could be proved.
The second amendment relies on the person having shared the image for sexual gratification (either their own, or that of a third person) – which would be near impossible to prove, as these images are often uploaded to harass and humiliate – rather than for direct sexual gain.
Despite the minor flaws, both of these amendments would empower the victims of revenge porn. It would force perpetrators to take responsibility for the damage and stress they’ve caused to the lives of others.
Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with sharing private images of yourself but you do so with a reasonable expectation of privacy. There is, however, something intrinsically wrong with using explicit images as a tool to harass and humiliate someone.
As a victim of revenge porn, I can’t even begin to explain how relieved it makes me to think that Parliament is seriously considering these proposals. Most victims of revenge porn are shamed and forced in to silence for fear that more people will find their images. They’re made to tolerate the abuse and forced to suffer through tedious copyright claims because it’s the closest they can get to having something done.
I’ve spoken to victims who were suicidal, whose images were taken on a Polaroid camera before they had any concept of the Internet, who have lost their careersand whose relationships have been ruined. All the while, those who have published the images are free to sit back and revel in the pain they’ve caused to someone whose only crime was to trust someone.
It’s time that something was done, so I’ll be eagerly following the progress of the amendments through the Lords, and I hope you’ll join me in the calls to finally criminalise revenge porn.
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