New research shows that victims of revenge porn, one aspect of image-based sexual abuse, are suffering in silence, afraid and unwilling to report offences, because of a fear they will not be taken seriously and be named and shamed.

The anonymous survey was carried out by the North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan who has been campaigning for a change in the law to protect those who have their privacy breaches and their most intimate moments shared online.

At the moment, the offences are classed as communication crimes rather than sexual ones – meaning anyone can name victims – across newspapers, social media and the web.

Over the summer, revenge porn victims were invited to give their views with the aim of providing more evidence for Ministers showing why closing the loophole is vitally important.

Today, a report on the results is published: ‘Suffering in Silence: Why revenge porn victims are afraid and unwilling to come forward because of a fear they’ll be named and shamed – and why that needs to change’.

It finds:

  • Only 4% of victims who responded to the survey successful prosecuted their offender
  • 76% of respondents did not report their crime to the police
  • In some cases, respondents said they were told by police that there would be no further action because they did not classify the incident as ‘revenge’ or victims were told it was a ‘case of embarrassment rather than revenge porn’
  • Anonymity is a key factor in stopping victims coming forward, with 97% of respondents stating it as important
  • 65% of all respondents did not report their crime because they specifically felt embarrassed and ashamed
  • 90% of victims would have reported their incident to the police if a range of assurances, predominantly related to anonymity, were in place.

Commenting, Julia Mulligan said:

“The evidence is stark and irrefutable – the government, police and criminal justice system are collectively failing victims of revenge porn.

“They are being systematically let down across the board, not just by the legislation, but by the police and criminal justice system itself often not responding to reports of revenge porn in a consistent or supportive way.  With just 4% of victims who responded to our survey achieving a successful prosecution, there is no question in my mind – the law is not fit for purpose.

“The lack of anonymity is key to victims concerns and are actively stopping them coming forward to report their crimes.  At each stage of the process victims are less and less likely to proceed, in large part because they are more and more likely to be named, which brings with it stigma and shame.

“The government did absolutely the right thing in developing revenge porn legislation, but it is time revenge porn laws were reviewed alongside issues such as up-skirting and ‘fake porn’. New laws covering all types of Image Based Sexual Abuse must be enacted bringing sexual offence legislation into the 21st century, as well as extend automatic anonymity to victims of these very serious and life-affecting crimes.”

Six recommendations are set out following the survey:

  1. The government should use the Domestic Abuse Bill to immediately extend automatic anonymity to victims of revenge porn
  2. The current law must be immediately strengthened
  3. In the longer term, the government should bring forward an Image Based Sexual Abuse Bill
  4. The police need increased powers to remove images quickly
  5. The Revenge Porn Helpline should receive increased and long-term funding
  6. A review and development of training provided to police and CPS practitioners

The full report and its recommendations can be found here >>

The survey heard from 92 people who were victims of revenge porn. This number, although small, is a strong representation as it was obtained directly from self-referring victims of revenge porn.