This is an issue that has been quite a significant topic in the media recently due to a famous Love Island personality sadly being the victim of image based abuse.

For those who are unfamiliar with the term, image based abuse refers to sharing/threatening to share intimate images or videos of someone without their consent. This is something that can cause devastating harm to the victims and it’s simply a way of showing control and humiliation. The victim is often left feeling angry, humiliated, socially isolated, or afraid for their own safety. Image based sexual abuse is tactic commonly used by perpetrators of domestic violence who attempt to coercively control a current or former intimate partner.

Recently in the news we’ve seen the story of Love Island’s Georgia Harrison’s image based abuse after her former partner Stephen Bear secretly filmed their private sexual acts which he then shared with others. He allegedly did this
using his around the house CCTV system. To his Instagram followers, Stephen later declared that he would “stage a suicide attempt” for sympathy following the allegations against him. In the clips, he was also seen mocking his ex, Georgia crying. This understandably left Georgia feeling hurt, vulnerable and violated.

On Friday the 15th January, Stephen Bear was arrested at Heathrow airport after returning home from a trip to Dubai - he was taken into police custody in relation to the abuse. With the UK being in and out of lockdowns this year, sadly, image-based sexual abuse / revenge porn has become the new norm.

This year alone, a government funded helpline (the Revenge Porn Helpline) saw a 22% increase in the number of reported cases of ‘revenge porn’ and more than 60% of survivors living with their abuser reported that
in general, the domestic abuse they experienced got worse during the pandemic. Studies in the past have indicated that the majority of perpetrators for image-based abuse are males.

Image-based sexual abuse is classed as a criminal offense in the UK and according to the official GOV website, those who are found guilty can face up to 2 years in prison and a fine — which applies to both sharing online and
offline pictures / footage, whether this be on a mobile phone or a physical photograph. If behaviour like this is repeated then the perpetrator may also face being guilty under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

It’s so incredibly important that those out there who are / think they have been the victim of image-based abuse, know that this is a crime and that there is support out there. Sharing intimate images without consent shouldn’t be branded as “a laugh” or “fun”, it’s unacceptable, it is a crime and you can be prosecuted for it.

Even sharing a private image around your friendship circle is wrong — not only because of the law, but out of respect
for the person whose image is being seen by people who weren’t supposed to see it.

It was found that 83% of women who experienced the threat of images being leaked from a current or former partner also experienced other forms of abuse. More than 1 in 10 of these women felt suicidal because of these threats.

Abusers need to be held accountable for their actions and we as a society have a responsibility to challenge these behaviours.

You can call the Revenge Porn Helpline on 0345 6000 459

If you are / have experienced any form of abuse please don’t hesitate to contact our 24/7 support line on 029 2046
0566.

  • Beth Fry, CWA volunteer

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