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.
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.
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.