Image-based Sexual Abuse: Academic Publications

Clare McGlynn, K Johnson, E Rackley, N Henry, N Gavey, A Flynn, A Powell (2020). ‘It’s torture for the soul’ The Harms of Image-Based Sexual AbuseSocial and Legal Studies

Abstract: Beyond ‘scandals’ and the public testimonies of victim-survivors, surprisingly little is known about the nature and extent of the harms of ‘image-based sexual abuse’, a term that includes all non-consensual taking and/or sharing of nude or sexual images. Accordingly, this article examines the findings from the first cross-national qualitative study on this issue, drawing on interviews with 75 victim-survivors of image-based sexual abuse in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. We adopt a feminist phenomenological approach that permits more nuanced and holistic understandings of victim-survivors’ experiences, moving beyond medicalised, trauma-based accounts of harm. Our analysis develops five interconnected accounts of the harms experienced, that we have termed social rupture, constancy, existential threat, isolation and constrained liberty. Our findings shed new light on the nature and significance of the harms of image-based sexual abuse that emphasises the need for more comprehensive and effective responses to these abuses.

Asia Eaton and Clare McGlynn, (2020). The psychology of nonconsensual porn: Understanding and addressing a growing form of sexual violence. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Abstract: As of 2020, legal protections for victims of image-based sexual abuse in the U.S. remain inadequate. For example, no federal law yet criminalizes the sharing of sexually-intimate material without a person’s consent (i.e., nonconsensual porn), and existing state laws are patchy and problematic. Part of the reason for this problem may be that U.S. lawmakers and the general public have yet to grasp that nonconsensual porn is a form of sexual abuse, with many of the same devastating, recurring, and lifelong consequences for victims. This review of psychological research on nonconsensual porn includes frameworks for understating this image-based sexual abuse, correlates and consequences of victimization, victim blame, and the nature of perpetration. Then, we analyze U.S. laws on nonconsensual porn in light of this review, and argue for comprehensive legislative solutions.

Clare McGlynn and Erika Rackley, (2017). Image-Based Sexual AbuseOxford Journal of Legal Studies37(3): 534-561.

In this article in the Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, my colleague Erika Rackley and I examine the harms of image-based sexual abuse and set out the ways in which laws and policies need to be reformed.

Abstract: ‘Advances in technology have transformed and expanded the ways in which sexual violence can be perpetrated. One new manifestation of such violence is the non-consensual creation and/or distribution of private sexual images: what we conceptualise as ‘image-based sexual abuse’. This article delineates the scope of this new concept and identifies the individual and collective harms it engenders. We argue that the individual harms of physical and mental illness, together with the loss of dignity, privacy and sexual autonomy, combine to constitute a form of cultural harm that impacts directly on individuals, as well as on society as a whole. While recognising the limits of law, we conclude by considering the options for redress and the role of law, seeking to justify the deployment of the expressive and coercive powers of criminal and civil law as a means of encouraging cultural change.’

Clare McGlynn, Erika Rackley and Ruth Houghton (2017). Beyond ‘Revenge Porn’: The Continuum of Image-Based Sexual Abuse. Feminist legal studies 25(1): 25-46.

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.

Abstract: In the last few years, many countries have introduced laws combating the phenomenon colloquially known as ‘revenge porn’. While new laws criminalising this practice represent a positive step forwards, the legislative response has been piecemeal and typically focuses only on the practices of vengeful ex-partners. Drawing on Liz Kelly’s (Surviving sexual violence. Polity Press, Cambridge, 1988) pioneering work, we suggest that ‘revenge porn’ should be understood as just one form of a range of gendered, sexualised forms of abuse which have common characteristics, forming what we are conceptualising as the ‘continuum of image-based sexual abuse’. Further, we argue that image-based sexual abuse is on a continuum with other forms of sexual violence. We suggest that this twin approach may enable a more comprehensive legislative and policy response that, in turn, will better reflect the harms to victim-survivors and lead to more appropriate and effective educative and preventative strategies.



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