Pin It
Revenge porn
Photography Peter Bucks, via Unsplash

Activists are still fighting to get revenge porn threats outlawed in the UK

The Domestic Abuse Bill has been amended to ban the disturbing ‘rough sex’ defence, but is yet to make intimate image intimidation a criminal offence

Yesterday (July 6), the UK’s amended Domestic Abuse Bill was finally passed in the House of Commons. Under the new laws – which were proposed after a hard-fought battle by activists – men will no longer be able to get away with murder by using the ‘rough sex’ defence (in which they can claim death occured when sex ‘went wrong’), non-fatal strangulation will become a separate offence, economic abuse will be recognised as coercive control, and it will be illegal to enact abuse via smart technology.

One thing notably missing from the legislation is revenge porn threats, which are not yet regarded as a crime in the UK, despite revenge porn itself being outlawed in 2015. Intimate image abuse is when someone shares photos or videos of a former partner without their consent, but activists want the threat of this action to be made illegal as well.

“Threats to share intimate images is a devastating form of domestic abuse that has long-term effects on the mental wellbeing and physical safety of survivors,” Eleanor Butt, the head of policy and public affairs at domestic abuse charity Refuge, tells Dazed. “It is a major problem for women in this country, and it simply isn’t going away.”

In May, it emerged that revenge porn was on the rise during coronavirus lockdown, with an intimate image abuse helpline reporting nearly double the amount of calls from those seeking help after the government imposed stay-at-home orders.

survey conducted by Refuge shows that one in seven women aged 18 to 34 have received threats to have their naked photos publicly exposed. Of the one in 14 women (of any age) who had been threatened with revenge porn, 83 per cent had also experienced other forms of abuse, while the same percentage of women said their mental health suffered, and one in ten reported feeling suicidal.

In response to these figures, Refuge has launched The Naked Threat campaign, which urges the government to make revenge porn threats illegal. Those who want to support the action can simply email a template provided by Refuge to the relevant ministers.

Butt says that although many MPs spoke up in favour of the intimate image abuse threat amendment in parliament yesterday, a vote wasn’t held. “Our campaign is far from over,” she explains. “Refuge won’t give up until the law protects survivors from threats to share intimate images, and we will continue calling on the government to make this happen via the Domestic Abuse Bill.”

Speaking on the triumph of the ‘rough sex’ defence finally being banned, activist group We Can’t Consent To This – which has been working to have the defence thrown out of British courts – described the bill’s passing as a “big moment” and “only the beginning”. In a statement, the group added: “This isn’t law yet and we need to see a clear statement from the government and the Crown Prosecution Service on how they’ll collect and evaluate data on the use of rough sex claims. This law must be made to work.” 

Support Refuge’s Naked Threat campaign here.