Refuge responds to Law Commission’s recommendations to reform intimate image abuse offences
In response to the Law Commission’s recommendations to reform intimate image abuse offences, Refuge’s CEO, Ruth Davison said:
“Refuge supports the Law Commission’s recommendation for a new legal framework for governing intimate image abuse (or so-called “revenge porn”) and recognises that current legislation is disjointed and falls short. Intimate image abuse is a form of domestic abuse and is another example of the way tech can be used to harass and intimidate survivors.
Refuge welcomes recommendations to make intimate image abuse legislation more consistent to plug gaps in existing legislation and ensure laws are up to date with the way new technologies are being mis-used. Photoshopped pornographic images known as ‘deepfakes’ cause significant harm and must be criminalised.
Refuge recognises the significant harms caused by threatening to share or non-consensually sharing intimate images and echoes the recommendation that all victims will be automatically eligible for lifetime anonymity and special measures in court. Refuge successfully campaigned to make threatening to share intimate images a crime as part of the Domestic Abuse Act, and we now need to see police training on intimate image abuse to ensure these crimes are investigated and prosecuted.
Offences should apply regardless of the perpetrators’ motivation which we know can be difficult to ascertain and prevent survivors from accessing justice.
The recommendations to reform intimate image abuse legislation must also recognise that an ‘intimate image’ can vary in context depending on the victim and doesn’t always specifically mean nudity. Refuge would like to see the recommendations go further to protect Black and minoritised women and reflect that religious groups and communities may have different definitions for what constitutes as an intimate image and this must be included within the base offence.
Intimate image abuse is largely being carried out on online spaces across social media platforms and the government has an opportunity with the Online Safety Bill to strengthen protections online for women and girls. Refuge are calling on the government to include a VAWG Code Of Practice in the Bill to help hold tech companies to account on online violence against women and girls and make tackling violence against women and girls a priority.”
Refuge supports thousands of women and children on any given day, and runs the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, which is the gateway to accessing specialist support across the country. More than one in four women in England and Wales experiences domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime, and two women a week are killed by a current or former partner.
Please signpost to Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247, available 24 hours a day 7 days a week for free, confidential specialist support. Or visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk to fill in a webform and request a safe time to be contacted or to access live chat (live chat available 3pm-10pm, Monday to Friday). For support with tech abuse visit refugetechsafety.org.