New Report: Shattering Lives and Myths – a Report on Image-Based Sexual Abuse

Image-based sexual abuse shatters lives – the key finding from our new report: Shattering Lives and Myths – a report on image-based sexual abuse.  The report reveals the findings from over 50 interviews with victim-survivors and stakeholders on their experiences and recommendations of all forms of non-consensual taking or sharing of sexual images, including forms of ‘revenge porn’, upskirting, fakeporn and threats. The research is part of an international project across the UK, Australia and New Zealand with Erika Rackley, Kelly Johnson, Nicola Henry, Nicola Gavey, Asher Flynn, Anastasia Powell and Adrian Scott.

The Report was launched at a roundtable in Parliament, chaired by Maria Miller MP and with contributions from Dame Vera Baird Victims’ Commissioner, the Fawcett Society, the End Violence Against Women coalition, Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis and many MPs, police, the Law Commission and members of the House of Lords.

The Report was discussed widely across the media, including reports in the Independent, the Guardian, the Telegraph, and the Times. Read a short summary of our key points in our comment in the Conversation.

The key findings are:

Shattered lives

  • Image-based sexual abuse shatters lives
  • Significant numbers of victim-survivors experience profound ‘social rupture’ – a major devastation that drastically alters all aspects of their lives
  • Threatsare experienced as life-threatening and paralysing
  • Intense isolationfrom friends, family, the online world and society in general characterises many experiences
  • Victim-survivors spoke of abuse that is constant,ongoing and relentless; that shatters not only their lives, but also the lives of those who love and support them

Shattering myths

  • Image-based sexual abuse thrives on myths. Myths about motives. Myths about victims. Myths about political, legal and institutional responses
  • The reality is that image-based sexual abuse is motivated by control, as well as misogyny, men’s entitlement and ‘laddish’ attitudes
  • Image-based sexual abuse is a gendered harm, with many victim-survivors experiencing devastating harms because of the social and political context of the sexual double standard and online abuse of women
  • Lack of supportleaves victim-survivors isolated, often attempting to navigate alone an unfamiliar, complex and shifting terrain of legal provisions and online regulation

What needs to change?

Comprehensive legal reform

  • Recognise image-based sexual abuse as sexual offence
  • Adopt a comprehensive criminal lawto cover all forms of image-based sexual abuse including threats and fakeporn
  • Remove motive requirements from current laws to bring them into line with other sexual and criminal offences
  • Extend automatic anonymity to all complainants of image-based sexual abuse
  • Extending civil legal aid to cover legal advice and support for all forms of image-based sexual abuse

Support victim-survivors to reclaim control

  • Comprehensive Government policy on supporting victim-survivors of image-based sexual abuse, including sustained and effective resourcing of specialist support services
  • Establish an Office for Online Safety to provide specialist advice, assistance and support for victim-survivors, as well as focussing on prevention through education

Effective and resourced training, education and guidance

  • Schools, universities and employers must put in place training and policies to effectively and compassionately respond to disclosures of image-based sexual abuse
  • Relationships and sex education in schools must include discussion of the harms and wrongs of image-based sexual abuse
  • Introduce comprehensive police training and guidance on responding to image-based sexual abuse