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

Find out more

#UpskirtingBill: welcome start, more to be done

Upskirting – taking photos or videos up a woman’s skirt without her permission – is a form of image-based sexual abuse and should be criminalised.

Parliament is currently debating the Bill and considering amendments. My evidence to the Committee is available here  – with key recommendations being:

Executive Summary

  1. The Voyeurism Bill is a welcome first step towards a more comprehensive law that needs to close the gaps, resolve inconsistencies and modernise the law covering all forms of image-based sexual abuse;
  2. Recommend amendment to remove motive requirements;
  3. Recommend amendment to include distribution of ‘upskirt’ images/videos;
  4. Recommend extending notification requirements to cover all motives;
  5. Recommend strengthening existing voyeurism offence to cover all motives and remove inconsistencies;
  6. Notification requirements do not unnecessarily criminalise young people;
  7. Recommend comprehensive law covering all forms of image-based sexual abuse’; and
  8. ‘revenge porn’ is a sexual offence and anonymity should be extended to all complainants.

It is vital that we take the opportunity to remove the inconsistencies in this field – as explained in my blog in the Huff Post.

The Government’s steps are a positive response to public campaigning by Gina Martin and Wera Hobhouse MP to question the gaps in the law and argue for change.

This new Bill is a welcome first step towards a more comprehensive law tackling all forms of image-based sexual abuse, including threats and altered images.

The law needs to be strengthened to ensure it covers all forms of ‘upskirting’, as well as providing greater protection for victims of ‘revenge porn’ and other forms of abuse.

In May 2018, Erika Rackley and I wrote to the Secretary of State for Justice , to urge the Government to reform the law to protect victims of all forms of image-based sexual abuse, including ‘upskirting’. Our reform suggestions are also made in this short blog.

My research, together with Erika Rackley, argues that upskirting should be viewed is a form of image-based sexual abuse – together with other forms of this abuse such as ‘revenge porn’, sexual extortion, sexualised photoshopping and the like. The civil and criminal law need to be reformed to respond to these growing forms of abuse and we have made detailed recommendations in our briefing document and academic work.

Calling Ministry of Justice to Broaden reform of any ‘upskirting’ law

McGlynn Northern Echo Feb 2018Upskirting – taking photos or videos up a woman’s skirt without her permission – is a form of image-based sexual abuse and should be criminalised.

In May 2018, I wrote to the Secretary of State for Justice , together with Erika Rackley, to urge the Government to reform the law to protect victims of all forms of image-based sexual abuse, including ‘upskirting’. Our reform suggestions are also made in this short blog.

English law does not fully cover this activity and the law should be reformed by making it a sexual offence with the focus on victim’s experiences and not the motives of perpetrators.

Recent public debate, following FOI disclosures that there are few prosecutions, found that there is widespread support for a change in the law. In response to this new data, I said it showed there “are few public places where women are free from this abuse“, adding that “The Government’s continuing failure to provide an effective criminal law against upskirting breaches women’s human rights. We are entitled to protection from degrading and abusive treatment, whether offline or online – and we are entitled to have our privacy in public respected.”

SofS Gauke Upskirting Reform Letter 10 Jan 2018-page-001In January 2018, together with Erika Rackley, I wrote to the Ministry of Justice  in January 2018 setting out our recommendations for reform. The Government MofJ Lucy Frazer Ltr Feb 2018 responded that they consider current laws to be sufficient and are keeping the issue under review.

This whole issue is back in the spotlight, thanks to the campaigning work of Gina Martin who has spoken out about her experience of upskirting. Wera Hobhouse MP is seeking to change the law and I’ve written a blog welcoming this proposal and hoping that the law can be changed to benefit victims of all forms of image-based sexual abuse.

Gina has shared her experience on BBC Woman’s Hour, where I discussed the law, and you can listen to episode here:

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I have argued, together with Erika Rackley, that upskirting should be viewed is a form of image-based sexual abuse – together with other forms of this abuse such as ‘revenge porn’, sexual extortion, sexualised photoshopping and the like. The civil and criminal law need to be reformed to respond to these growing forms of abuse and we have made detailed recommendations in our briefing document and academic work.

On the specific need for a new law covering #upskirting and #downblousing, you can also read my short blog with colleague Julia Downes written a couple of years ago.

New FOI data on Policing Extreme Porn

How is the law on extreme pornography being policed? Who is being charged with extreme pornography offences? What is the most common type of pornography being prosecuted?

To find out the answers to these and many similar questions, my colleague Dr Hannah Bows and I made new Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to all police forces across England and Wales.

We produced a preliminary analysis of the data for the inquiry into pornography being held by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Sexual Violence. We will publish the full results later in the year.

Our evidence submission is available here: APPG BowsMcGlynn FOI Evidence_

These are some of our preliminary findings:

What do we know of those who are accused of possessing extreme pornography?

  • Gender of defendants: The vast majority (98%) of those charged with extreme pornography offences are men.
  • Age of defendants: Men across all ages are being charged with extreme pornography offences. This is not an offence being committed only by young people sharing ‘gross’ images, engaging in ‘sexual experimentation’ or having greater internet use.
  • Ethnicity: Those accused are predominantly White (71%).

What types of extreme pornography are recorded and charged?

  • Bestiality Images: Vast majority of charges were for possession of bestiality images (85%).
  • Rape Pornography: Only 3 charges (1%) were made in relation to possession of rape pornography
  • Attrition: Of all recorded incidents of extreme pornography (n=500) 62% led to a charge.
  • Additional offences charged: where information was available (n=116), in just over half of cases (59%) an additional offence was recorded at the same time as the extreme pornography offence, with the majority of those additional charges (62%) being for sexual offences.

Reforming Upskirting Law

McGlynn Northern Echo Feb 2018Upskirting – taking photos or videos up a woman’s skirt without her permission – is a form of image-based sexual abuse and should be criminalised. English law does not fully cover this activity and the law should be reformed by making it a sexual offence with the focus on victim’s experiences and not the motives of perpetrators.

Recent public debate, following FOI disclosures that there are few prosecutions, found that there is widespread support for a change in the law. In response to this new data, I said it showed there “are few public places where women are free from this abuse“, adding that “The Government’s continuing failure to provide an effective criminal law against upskirting breaches women’s human rights. We are entitled to protection from degrading and abusive treatment, whether offline or online – and we are entitled to have our privacy in public respected.”

SofS Gauke Upskirting Reform Letter 10 Jan 2018-page-001Unfortunately, so far the Government has not agreed to changing the law. Together with Erika Rackley, I wrote to the Ministry of Justice  in January 2018 setting out our recommendations for reform. The Government MofJ Lucy Frazer Ltr Feb 2018 responded that they consider current laws to be sufficient and are keeping the issue under review.

This whole issue is back in the spotlight, thanks to the campaigning work of Gina Martin who has spoken out about her experience of upskirting. Wera Hobhouse MP is seeking to change the law and I’ve written a blog welcoming this proposal and hoping that the law can be changed to benefit victims of all forms of image-based sexual abuse.

Sexual History Evidence and Law Reform

There is an urgent need to reform the law relating to the use of sexual history evidence in rape and sexual assault trials. In my research, I set out:

  • the reasons why restrictions on sexual history evidence are needed;
  • the evidence we have as to how often sexual history evidence is used in sexual offence trials;
  • why the Court of Appeal judgment in R v Ched Evans is problematic; and
  • detailed recommendations for reform of the law.

A research briefing is available which summarises the key points.