The UK's Revenge Porn Law Was Effective Its First Year, Sort Of

In April 2015, the U.K. passed a watershed law against revenge porn and a new Crown Prosecution Service report reveals how effective the U.K.'s revenge porn law was in its first year. Sharing sexual images or video footage of a person without their consent is now a specifically legislated against crime in England and Wales, and it carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison. In the law's first year, a total of 206 people were prosecuted for revenge porn crimes, and while both men and women were charged, the victims were overwhelmingly women. Heartbreakingly, the report revealed that the youngest victim was a child of just 11 years old.

Unfortunately, those prosecutions are just a drop in the bucket when you consider that BBC filed for Freedom of Information requests with the 43 police forces bound by the law, and, of the 31 that responded, they found 1,160 reported cases of revenge porn from April to December of 2015. Sixty-one percent of those reports yielded no action taken against the perpetrator, typically either because the victim didn't wish to pursue charges or because the police cited a lack of evidence. But the wording of the new law and the fact that it's specifically geared towards acts of internet revenge porn is making the crime easier to prosecute and should combat those outdated claims of "insufficient evidence."

Giphy

In an analysis of the report for BBC, Home Affairs Correspondent Danny Shaw writes:

In years gone by, [victim's] allegations were often not taken seriously; violence in the home was treated as "just a domestic" with police reluctant to get involved; prosecutions weren't considered or were abandoned too readily unless the case was clear-cut.

These figures, however, together with a series of new criminal offences, provide evidence of real change in the justice system, with the CPS more willing to prosecute than ever before.

Special interest groups are careful to remind legislators and law enforcement, however, that more work needs to be done. Since the crimes are easier to pursue for prosecution, for example, and since revenge porn crimes are at an all-time high, more support is needed both at the investigative level and the prosecutorial level to ensure law enforcement can manage the volume of reports. Public opinion of revenge porn victims needs to shift, too. As difficult as it is to endure the legal process of reporting a sex crime, victims are also afraid of backlash from friends and family, victim-blaming, and of simply not being believed.

Updating legal language to catch up with technology is an important part of progressive sex crime legislation, but the struggle is not over.

Images: devrim_pinar/Fotolia; Giphy