Caution over new revenge porn law

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Published: Wednesday 22nd April 2015 by The News Editor

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The new law on revenge porn will have a “limited impact” because women are being “harassed, abused and controlled” with sexually explicit and intimate images, an expert has said.

It comes amid fears some women, particularly from religious backgrounds, are being blackmailed by the threat of these images surfacing online and bringing shame onto their family.

The warning comes a week after a law was introduced to ban the humiliating practice, which means that anyone who posts private, sexual images of someone without their consent and with the intent to cause distress will now face prison.

Popstars such as Rihanna and Tulisa Contostavlos were both victims to the cruel practice, while campaigners successfully lobbied politicians for a change in the law.

Clare McGlynn, a professor of law at Durham University, said: “Revenge pornography, as a form of harassment, abuse and control of women, only works in any situation because of the shame and stigma that attaches to women whose intimate images are distributed.

“This shame and stigma is exacerbated within some communities which may make some women even less likely to come forward to the police.

“The new law on revenge pornography, therefore, will only have a limited impact. The real challenge is to try to change the culture in which women’s sexual autonomy is not respected and in which the distribution of private images – a fundamental breach of privacy – is condoned.”

The first figures of their kind into the prevalence of revenge porn, obtained by the Press Association last year, showed that children as young as 11 have been victims, with their perpetrators often evading justice.

There were 149 allegations of crimes involving revenge pornography during the two-and-a-half years to September 2014, according to the eight police forces in England and Wales with data on it. The figures showed the vast majority of victims were women – and that only six incidents resulted in any sort of police caution or charge.

Professor McGlynn said revenge pornography was “just the latest example of how modern technology is being used as a means of a furthering the abuse and control of women”.

She said: “In this way, therefore, laws on revenge pornography will have little impact on these women’s lives. It is tackling the silence around domestic abuse within these communities which is required.

” Women need to be taken seriously and treated with dignity. We know that this does not always happen.

” The new law is symbolically important in terms of raising awareness of the prevalence and harm of revenge pornography.

“What we now need to do is to tackle the culture which denigrates women who have shared private sexual images and condones or ignores the the acts of (mainly) men who distribute those images without consent.”

Jef McAllister, managing partner at law firm McAllister Olivarius which has represented victims, said: “The only way the legal system can begin to tackle revenge pornography is if the culture sides with the woman to some extent, enough to allow her to come forward.

“This strand of revenge pornography almost harkens back to Victorian blackmail, where the consequences of sexual independence were so overwhelming that blackmailers had tremendous power.”

A conference involving experts and victims will be held in central London tomorrow to discuss the new law and debate the need for further legal reform.

Published: Wednesday 22nd April 2015 by The News Editor

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