In a new blog for The Huffington Post, Clare challenges the Government’s refusal to recognise ‘revenge porn’ – better called image-based sexual abuse – as a form of sexual violence. She argues that the Government’s approach entirely misunderstands the nature of sexual offending, with significant adverse consequences.
Image-based sexual abuse is a sexual offence. The harm comes from the fact that it is sexual images that are shared without consent; the images go viral because they are sexual. Non-sexual images would simply not have the same potency to cause harm; nor would thousands of others distribute these images. Sharing private sexual images without consent exploits an individuals’ sexual identity and infringes their sexual autonomy. The online abuse which accompanies distribution of private sexual images includes sexual threats (rape threats), as well as abusive comments about the victim’s appearance, body, sexuality and sexual agency. New research has shown how all different forms of image-based sexual abuse – including ‘revenge porn’, ‘upskirting’, sexual extortion, sexualised photoshopping – share common characteristics with other forms of sexual offending.
It is vital that it is recognised in law and policy that image-based sexual abuse is indeed a form of sexual violence and that automatic anonymity be granted to all complainants, in the same way as for other sexual crimes. This will help to ensure other victims do not have their names and images shared widely across the media, encouraging more to come forward and report these crimes, or take action in the civil courts as Mischa has done.
Full blog available here.