Politics

Revenge porn threats will become a criminal offence under new changes to the domestic abuse bill

Posted by
Lauren Geall
Published
backgroundLayer 1
Add this article to your list of favourites
Two hands holding a phone

An amendment to the domestic abuse bill will see threatening to share intimate videos or images of someone without their consent punishable with up to two years in prison.

Threatening to share intimate videos or images of someone will be made a criminal offence for the first time, thanks to a campaign led by the domestic abuse charity Refuge.

While revenge porn – the sharing of private, sexual photos or videos of another person without their consent and with the purpose of causing embarrassment or distress – was criminalised in England and Wales in 2015, and in Northern Ireland in 2016, threatening to share someone’s intimate photos or videos was not. Until now.

The law change, which is part of a series of amendments being made to the domestic abuse bill, will make threatening revenge porn punishable by up to two years in jail.  

You may also like

“My ex said he’d send my nudes to my colleagues”: the devastating impact of revenge porn threats

It comes after a campaign led by Refuge and supported by celebrities including Olivia Colman and Zara McDermott saw just under 45,000 supporters of the charity write to the government urging them to make the law change. 

A campaign video calling on Home Secretary Priti Patel and Secretary of State for Justice Robert Buckland to change the law was also viewed over 180,000 times on social media. 

Lisa King, Refuge’s director of communications and external relations, described the change as “a significant moment” for those facing revenge porn threats.

“We are thrilled that the government has recognised the need for urgent change,” King said in a statement. “Our research found that one in seven young women have experienced these threats to share, with the overwhelming majority experiencing them from a current or former partner, alongside other forms of abuse.

“The domestic abuse bill provides the perfect legislative vehicle for this change, and the government has acted quickly and decisively. This is a victory for women and girls and testimony to the power of working together for change.” 

Alongside the criminalisation of threatening to share ‘revenge porn’, amendments to the domestic abuse bill will also create an offence for non-fatal strangulation, with people who intentionally restrict someone’s ability to breathe facing a possible five years in prison.

Legislation will also be strengthened around controlling or coercive behaviour, so it’s no longer a requirement that victims and abusers live together.

A close-up of a woman's shoulder wearing a white tank top
The criminalisation of revenge porn threats will make it easier for victims to report their abuse.

Speaking in a statement to mark the new amendments, the domestic abuse commissioner for England and Wales, Nicole Jacobs, called the changes a “huge win” for victims, charities and campaigners, but called on the government to provide further support for those affected. 

“I am delighted that the government has listened and acted,” she said. 

“Nevertheless, the government must still go further to make this bill genuinely ‘landmark’ by increasing the provision of services in the community and ensuring protections are extended to all victims and survivors, regardless of their immigration status.”

You may also like

“How this podcast helped me heal from a controlling relationship”

Earlier this year, Cara (not her real name) told Stylist about her experience of being threatened with revenge porn, after her ex stole intimate photos from her computer.

“There was nothing I could do,” she said. “He had all the power, all the control, and the police had literally told me to just ignore him and he’d go away. It was terrifying thinking about what would happen if he released the images – who would see them, what would people think. I had to tell my boss what had happened to get his email address blocked at work. It was humiliating. You feel ashamed.”

Most of the legislation in the domestic abuse bill will only apply to England and Wales. The bill is currently going through the House of Lords, where the amendments have been tabled.

For now, though, this news is a victory for all the people who have been threatened with revenge porn, as well as the charities and campaigners who made this change happen.

If you have been affected by threats to share intimate images or films, or have been a victim of revenge porn, you can access advice and support by calling the UK Revenge Porn Helpline on 0845 6000 459 

Sign up for the latest news and must-read features from Stylist, so you don't miss out on the conversation.

By entering my email I agree to Stylist’s Privacy Policy

Images: Getty

Topics

Share this article

Author

Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s junior digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.