Revenge porn complaints soar after screening of Channel 4 documentary

Government helpline has received more than 1,800 calls since February

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The Independent Online

A Government helpline set up to aid victims of revenge porn has received more than 1,800 calls from more than 280 people since it was set up in February, statistics from the Women and Equalities office have revealed.

Campaigners say the high demand for support and legal advice is a reflection of the “devastation and humiliation” felt by victims of a crime that has become notorious in recent months.

Calls to Revenge Porn Helpline, run by South West Grid for Learning, soared last week, following the screening on Monday of Revenge Porn, a documentary shown on Channel 4. The number of calls made in 48 hours surpassed those made in a typical week.

Sarah Green, acting director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said the figures were “enormous” and indicated “a big social problem that probably wasn’t detected properly before”.

Until revenge porn was made a criminal offence – the Government included it in the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 – there had been a lack of clarity surrounding the issue, she said.

Revenge-Porn-1-Channel-4.jpg
Revenge Porn is presented By Anna Richardson

But criminalising it showed it was being taken more seriously, and enabled more victims to come forward; Ms Green added that attitudes towards sexual violence were also changing because of widespread reporting of cases such as the Jimmy Savile scandal.

The helpline reported that female victims made up to 75 per cent of the calls received. Ms Green believes there is an imbalance between the humiliation felt between men and women. “Why does it humiliate women more than men? That’s because of our deeply culturally engrained sexual double standard, where women are shamed for being seen to be sexually active.”

Education was key to tackling the issue, she said.

“This form of abuse, which is new and technologically enabled, is another reason why we have to have compulsory sex and relationship education, because we have to get through what is respectful, what is equal behaviour, and what is an abusive way to treat somebody.”

The helpline often refers victims to other services such as Women’s Aid. The charity’s policy manager, Clare Laxton, said those affected felt “devastation and humiliation” at having nude images of them posted online. But raising awareness of the issue through avenues such as the Channel 4 documentary led to more people seeking help. 

“I think it’s about seeing that its being taken seriously. I think that’s a really important message [for] women, “ said Ms Laxton. “We’ve talked to women [who] would report revenge porn and the police would say: ‘There’s nothing we can do’; or: ‘Why are you taking those photos?’ If you’ve built up the courage to go and report this to the police, and that’s the sort of reaction you get, that’s really dispiriting.

“What we’re really trying to do is raise awareness; you should be believed. You have rights, it’s not your fault ….

“The blame lies with the perpetrator and the websites that are making money from this. I think that’s a really important message [which] is getting out there a lot more.”

Nicky Morgan, the minister for Women and Equalities, said: “It is never acceptable to circulate intimate photos of an individual without their consent. But I want all those affected to know that the Government is on their side.”

Earlier this month, in the first cases of their kind, two men were given prison sentences for offences relating to revenge porn.

Revenge Porn Helpline: 0845 6000 459