Korean Lessons for Supporting Victims of Image-Based Sexual Abuse

Meeting with the Korean Minister for Gender Equality and Family

What action should be taken to support and offer redress to victim-survivors of image-based sexual abuse?

Learning the lessons from South Korea would be a great start, particularly the work of their Advocacy Centre for Online Sexual Abuse which is funded by the Ministry for Gender Equality. I found out more about their pioneering work during a visit to South Korea in November 2019 when I met with the Minister for Gender Equality and participated in an international conference organised by the Advocacy Centre.

Established in April 2018, the Advocacy Centre for Online Sexual Abuse was a response to growing concerns about the increase in reports of voyeurism and the non-consensual sharing of sexual images without consent. What marks out the Centre is its comprehensive approach to victim support and redress.

Prof Clare McGlynn, Sue Gabor of the eSafety Commission and Sophie Mortimer from the Revenge Porn Helpline

The Government funded Centre currently has 26 staff – yes 26 – compared to the 2.5 of the UK’s Revenge Porn Helpline – who work with victims to provide support, including legal advice and counselling, as well as getting images and videos taken down from the internet. This comprehensive approach, and dedicated team and systems to remove non-consensual content, is supporting thousands of victims who are experiencing the devastating impacts of image-based sexual abuse.

The conference also heard from the experiences of Australia’s eSafety Commission, from Porf Asia Eaton of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative in the US and from Sophie Mortimer of the Revenge Porn Helpline.

How do these international initiatives compare to the UK?

The UK’s Revenge Porn Helpline is a vital lifeline for many victim-survivors of image-based sexual abuse and is doing a great job. But it can only do so much. It has only 2.5 staff, with a population roughly the same size as South Korea which has 26 staff. In fact, Australia, with a population half the size of the UK, has 6 staff employed by the eSafety Commission removing non-consensual material from the internet at the request of victims.

As detailed in the recent report published by my colleagues and I – Shattering Lives and Myths: a report on image-based sexual abuse – victims in the UK face a complex and often bewildering array of legal and other options, but with little co-ordinated support or advice.

Protests in Korea against image-based sexual abuse
Conference organisers and members of the Korean Advocacy

We urgently need to provide a comprehensive and holistic approach to supporting victims and offering them redress for the harms they have suffered, as we recommended in the report and in this short blog Sexual Abuse Happens Online Too.

We could start this process by following the pioneering example of the Korean Advocacy Centre for Online Sexual Abuse.

Why our extreme porn laws need to change

Why our extreme porn laws need to change

A law against possession of rape pornography, introduced in 2015, is very rarely used with few charges and prosecutions.

This is what Hannah Bows and I have found after analysing data obtained through a Freedom of Information request.

Police focus

The research shows that during 2015-2017 the vast majority (85 per cent) of extreme pornography charges were for possessing bestiality porn with only one per cent of charges for rape pornography.

It shows that porn involving animals is the focus of police action rather than rape porn and the authors are calling for a comprehensive review of laws regulating pornography.

Pornography charges

Bestiality pornography, involving a sex act with an animal, is the most common category to be recorded and charged, followed by pornography involving acts which threaten life and/or acts which are likely to result in injury.

However, rape porn and porn involving a human corpse are rarely recorded and very few offences result in a charge.

Review of laws

The study also found that almost all people charged with extreme porn offences are men (97 per cent) and that it involves men of all ages, suggesting it is not only young men who view extreme porn.

With the British Board of Film Classification about to take on new powers to block extreme pornography websites, and the Government consulting on its Online Harms White Paper, the researchers say the time is ripe to review the role and purpose of the extreme porn laws.

Key findings

  • There were 591 cases of extreme pornography
  • Most recorded offences related to bestiality porn (515) and only nine rape porn offences were recorded.
  • Overall, 71 per cent of recorded offences resulted in a charge.
  • 97 per cent of cases, the accused was male.
  • Men of all ages are being charged with extreme pornography offences – although most are aged 18-50.
  • 67 per cent of accused were white.
  • For cases where information on other offences was available, more than half involved another offence, of which most were other sexual offences.

Text from Durham University: https://www.dur.ac.uk/research/news/item/?id=39788&itemno=39788

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