Are We Winning the Fight Against Revenge Porn?

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There have been so many victories for victims of revenge porn. Most recently, American revenge porn website operator Kevin Bollaert was sentenced to 18 years’ prison. It seems a day doesn’t go by without a jurisdiction somewhere in the world passing a bill to outlaw the practice of posting nude photos online without the subject’s consent. So, are we winning the fight against revenge porn? Well, campaigners in the UK don’t believe so.

Lawmakers in England and Wales earlier this month introduced legislation making the malicious dissemination of explicit images punishable by up to two years in prison. The key word here being ‘malicious’. That’s right, to win a court battle, prosecutors must prove malicious intent. Some might argue that publishing intimate photos of someone online without their permission makes their motives clear as day, but lawyers disagree.

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While in many cases it will be clear that a victim’s ex was angry and after revenge, lawyers fear if the culprit is careful about the way the material is published, it could be an uphill battle for justice. They are right to worry. In the two years to September 2014, there were 149 allegations of revenge pornography recorded by eight police forces in England and Wales. Only six resulted in a police caution or charge.

Campaigners fear the new laws won’t help victims, and may mean many cases will fall through the cracks. There’s now a call for tougher penalties for culprits, such as being placed on the Sex Offenders Register.

While, lawyers want a system that would allow victims to file for an injunction, forcing perpetrators to take down images. This legislation is a step in the right direction, but its light-handedness is far from the battle cry needed to fight such a heinous crime. The explosion of smartphones and social networking sites has given oxygen to a relatively new form of violence. Let’s at least give victims the dignity they deserve in the justice system.