Number of revenge porn victims 'doubles' in two years

The number of victims of revenge porn has doubled in the past two years.

Research by law firms Slater and Gordon found that 15% of 2,006 people surveyed said they shared a sexual image without their consent, compared with 8% two years ago.

The lawyers first commissioned the investigation in 2019 after seeing partners involved in divorce proceedings were increasingly at risk of such abuse.

Disclosing private sexual photos and movies with the intent to cause distress became a criminal offense in 2015, but those who even threaten to share such material could face a two-year prison sentence due to a proposed change in the law.

The research found that 40% of respondents knew someone who had been the victim of revenge porn, up 9% from 2019.

Around three quarters (78%) of the victims were women and around a quarter of the crimes were committed by male ex-partners (24%).

The survey found that 47% of people threatened with revenge porn said they had to “do what they wanted” from the perpetrator, and 42% said they wanted to force them back into a relationship.

Despite the apparent increase in the number of victims, the proportion of people reporting the threat to the police fell from 38% in 2019 to 32% this year.

Two thirds of respondents said they were more likely to report the behavior if they knew it was being taken seriously, and 54% said they would if they could remain anonymous.

Holly Atkins, Family Attorney at Slater and Gordon, said: “These numbers are deeply worrying. We had hoped that the offensive behavior would have decreased as the issue continued to be discussed and condemned in society.

“We originally conducted this investigation when we heard from clients who were concerned that their private pictures could be used against them as their divorce became toxic. It was also clear that at the end of the relationship, some pictures were shared with third parties without consent.

“Image-based sexual abuse has very similar characteristics to other forms of mental and emotional abuse. It tries to instigate feelings of shame and public embarrassment, and aims to control the victim and force them into certain actions.

“We are happy to announce that customer sexual harassment has not increased this way. However, we regularly hear from exes from customers posting negative things about them on social media or threatening them to harm their reputation.

“It is extremely stressful and harmful for everyone to experience something.”

The research also found that almost one in ten (9%) of respondents had threatened or shared a sexually explicit image without the sender’s consent, up from 4% in 2019, with about a quarter of respondents (26%) saying “only one Laughter, ”and 24% mistakenly believe it was their own to share.

Ms. Atkins added, “It was certainly worrying that the number of people who shared pictures without consent has also increased, stating that it was their content to share them or that it was just a bit of fun.

“While it is likely that some of these people have shared harmless fun with close friends as harmless, it is evident that conversations about this behavior are still required. Regardless of the intent, it is still a violation that can cause deep distress. “

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