Press Release

25 September 2020

Refuge and Love Island star Zara McDermott take ‘The Naked Threat’ campaign to the gates of Parliament

Refuge, the UKs largest domestic abuse charity, and former civil servant, and star of Love Island,  Zara McDermott take ‘The Naked Threat’ campaign  to decision makers to demand change in law.

Today, Thursday 24 September, Refuge, former civil servant and Love Island star Zara McDermott, and survivor of domestic abuse Natasha Saunders, will take Refuge’s ‘The Naked Threat’ campaign to the gates of Parliament to urge the Government to ensure the Domestic Abuse Bill better protects women and girls from abuse. The campaign has already been backed by Dame Vera Baird, Victims Commissioner, as well as Nicole Jacobs, Domestic Abuse Commissioner and is now also backed by Cosmopolitan UK, which has come on board as Refuge’s official media partner for this campaign.

Earlier this year, Refuge launched ‘The Naked Threat’ campaign, which calls on the Government to change the law to make threatening to share intimate images a crime. Currently, an offence is only committed once an image has been shared, meaning women experiencing these threats often face being controlled by their abusers with the threat to share an intimate image, as well as experience significant barriers when trying to access justice. Both Zara and Natasha have experienced these threats, and are championing the campaign.

A representative survey, commissioned by Refuge earlier this year, found that one in 14 adults had been on the receiving end of these threats –  with young women (1 in 7) being disproportionately impacted by such a threat.  These threats were overwhelmingly made by current or former partners, making this is a domestic abuse issue, and one which should be addressed urgently through the imminent Domestic Abuse Bill. The Bill is expected to return to the House of Lords in the next few weeks

Ordinarily, Refuge and Zara McDermott would be lobbying within parliament to see this simple amendment made within the Bill – but Covid-19  restrictions have prevented this so instead we’re taking a modern day ransom note to parliament to raise awareness and deliver a clear message to MPs and Peers – the law needs to change.

An ad van will park outside parliament and deliver the words of Natasha’s real life threats to share experience.  Simultaneously a social-first campaign will launch taking a modern twist to traditional ransom notes. An innovative hack of Cosmopolitan’s Instagram stories will rollout – initially presenting as a harmless article which soon turns sinister, threatening Cosmo viewers with a chilling ransom note.

The aim of the campaign and the social assets created is to drive supporters to sign a letter to call for a change in the law – a change that could be simple and swift and housed within the imminent Domestic Abuse Bill.  This much needed change will give protection to hundreds and thousands of women who live in our country today under the fear of the threat to share an intimate image.  The Naked Threat must be made crime – and the time to act is now.

The ad van will drive past Parliament between 11am and noon . The message will run repeatedly, providing a photo and video opportunity for media, as well as interviews on site. A full suite of digital assets, created pro-bono by AMV BBDO is also available on request, strictly embargoed.

Natasha Saunders, survivor of domestic abuse said:

“The abuse I suffered at the hands of my ex was horrific. Not only did he physically abuse me, I also suffered rape, and threats to share intimate images.  I know only too well that these threats are not isolated incidents and are so often used as further methods of control. I was absolutely terrified these images would be shared with my family and publicly. The threat of them being shared was my worst nightmare – and meant I had no choice but to comply with my ex partner’s continued abuse or face potential shame and humiliation.”

Ellie Butt, head of policy and public affairs at Refuge said:

“Today, we are sending a strong message to Government – change the law and protect women and girls from the threat to share intimate images. Threatening to share intimate and sexual images and  videos is another tool a perpetrator has in his toolbox to abuse. The law has yet to recognise this devastating form of abuse. Our survey found that 83% of women who experienced these threats said it impacted their mental health and wellbeing, with more than 1 in 10 feeling suicidal as a result of the threat and 1 in 7 felt more at risk of physical violence.  These statistics should send a stark warning and a clear message to Government – act now to change the law and help protect women and girls from this form of ever increasing pernicious abuse.”

Zara McDermott said:

“I am so pleased to support Refuge with this important campaign. I’ve been on the receiving end of ‘revenge porn’ and know exactly how damaging it can be. I’ve heard from countless other women that they too have had similar experiences. This change in the law really could make a difference to the lives of so many women. . I used to work within the walls of Parliament, and now I’m outside, lending my voice to strengthen the call, to ensure women receive the protection they deserve.   I hope that the Government will hear our message loud and clear and push for the changes we are asking for –  a swift and simple amendment to the law really could make a difference.”

Claire Hodgson, editor-in-chief, Cosmopolitan UK said:

“When we learned that one in seven young women will face this threat, we knew we had to get behind the campaign. These are our readers, who every day, will be living in fear, the impact hanging over them – and affecting their mental health and feeling of safety. Which is why we’ve teamed up with Refuge, as their media partner, to call for the law to be changed and make this very real threat illegal.”


Editors notes.

Creative assets, kindly produced pro bono by agency AMV BBDO –  available on request including animation for digital media use. Refuge is incredibly grateful to AMV BBDO for their support.

Media can only attend by appointment due to strict social distancing rules –  masks must be worn at all times –  please contact the press office to reserve a slot.

For more information contact

Join the campaign here. Read the report.