Over the last few years, much of my work has focussed on image-based sexual abuse (a term which includes all forms of non-consensual taking and/or sharing of sexual images without consent, including threats and ‘deepfakes’). Together with colleagues Erika Rackley and Kelly Johnson, I’ve argued for comprehensive legal changes to enable victim-survivors to seek justice, and for improved support and legal assistance to enable victims to reclaim control of their lives.
In July 2019, my colleagues and I published a report Shattering Lives and Myths which identifies legal and policy failings that must urgently be addressed. We interviewed over 50 victims and stakeholders across the UK to find out their experiences and recommendations for change. This report is part of an international project across the UK, Australia and New Zealand investigating image-based sexual abuse led by Nicola Henry, together with Erika Rackley, Kelly Johnson, Asher Flynn, Anastasia Powell, Nicola Gavey and Adrian Scott.
The report was launched at a Parliamentary Roundtable, chaired by Maria Miller MP and attended by many victims, police, lawyers, justice organisations, the Victims Commissioner Vera Baird, Fawcett, End Violence Against Women coalition, Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis and many MPs and members of the House of Lords. Read more about the report, public and media debate and my blog with Erika Rackley and Kelly Johnson here.
This Report develops work over recent years working closely with politicians, policy-makers and campaign groups to introduce new laws criminalising all forms of image-based sexual abuse – a term that includes ‘revenge porn’, ‘fakeporn’ and ‘upskirting’. English law was reformed in 2015, with Scots law the year after. These laws are a welcome start, but more must be done to better challenge these abuses and protect victims.
I have given evidence before the Scottish Parliament Justice Committee on reform proposals, as well as recommending comprehensive law reforms before Parliament’s Women & Equalities Select Committee. I actively participate in policy and political debates, most recently suggesting improvements to the laws on ‘upskirting’ including here on the BBC, outlining the harms of photoshopped images and ‘deepfakes’ in the Guardian and advocating the protection of victims by granting them automatic anonymity when reporting to the police.
This policy activity includes working with tech companies and in 2018 I addressed Facebook’s Global Safety team at their HQ in Silicon Valley, with Durham Sociology’s Kelly Johnson, on this research and participated in their global roundtable brainstorming next steps to challenge the sharing of non-consensual sexual imagery.
Quick and easy explainers of my suggestions and recommendations can be found in my blogs including one on why ‘Revenge Porn’ Is A Form Of Sexual Assault another on why the Law Must Protect All Victims of Image-based Sexual Abuse, Not Just Upskirting and recently why laws on ‘upskirting’ must not require proof of sexual gratification.
My blog here with Erika Rackley for Everyday Victim Blaming explains why we use the term image-based sexual abuse.
This policy work is based on my research with Erika Rackley which developed the term ‘image-based sexual abuse‘ to better describe the range of abuses arising from the creation and/or distribution of intimate images without consent. A short Research Briefing which summarises the main points.
You can read the research in more depth in our article in the Oxford Journal of Legal Studies (access the full research article) which examines harms of image-based sexual abuse and set out the ways in which laws and policies need to be reformed.
We have further developed our ideas in another article which argues that all forms of image-based sexual abuse are part of a pattern of sexual violence, a form of sexual assault, and should be recognised as such. This article is published in the journal Feminist Legal Studies and is called: Beyond ‘Revenge Porn’: the continuum of image-based sexual abuse.
You can watch the video here.