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Coronavirus and Revenge Porn: What’s the link?

One unexpected impact of the pandemic - the increase in revenge porn. This phenomenon is on the rise, but what does Coronavirus have to do with it?

The pandemic has changed life as we know it. One unexpected impact – the increase in revenge porn. This phenomenon is on the rise, but what does Coronavirus have to do with it? By Lily Armstrong.

What is revenge porn?

Intimate image abuse or ‘revenge porn’ is the distribution of sexually explicit images or videos of individuals without their consent. Often, the sharing of these images are done with the intention to cause distress. 

Around two thirds of cases reported to the helpline involve women.

It became a criminal offense in April 2015, in the Criminal Justice and Courts Act. 

The manager of the Revenge Porn Helpline (https://revengepornhelpline.org.uk), Sophie Mortimer, used the data from the helpline to identify a significant rise in cases since the national lockdown was put in place in March.

Around 2,050 reports were made to the government-funded helpline, a 22% rise from last year, which saw 1685 reports.

Even more drastically, the helpline dealt with 285 cases last month – a 63% increase on the 175 cases in August 2019. The helpline is run by the charity South West Grid for Learning (SWGfL), part of the UK Safer Internet Centre. It is funded by the government.

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Why has lockdown caused this rise? 

Clare McGlynn, a law professor at Durham University, attributed the rise in cases to “the increased use of the internet and social media, as well as heightened emotions” during lockdown. 

Stress, break-ups, and job loss can all aggravate pre-existing abusive behaviour and coercive control – two key motives behind revenge porn.

The inability to connect with others in person has inspired many to join online dating sites, which may have resulted in higher rates of sexting and sharing explicit images… because, well, we all have needs. 

Is lockdown the cause, or simply highlighting a problem that already exists?

Folami Prehaye, a victim of revenge porn, founded the website Victims of Internet Crime: Speak Out! (https://voic.org.uk) to provide ongoing emotional support for victims of these kinds of offences.

She said: “The problem has always been there, it’s just that lockdown made it more apparent, and an easier place for predatory sexual exploitation.”

“The spike in domestic abuse cases is reflected here – people are vulnerable in lockdown, either with their abuser, or alone and cut off from networks of personal support and the availability of services.” 

Research by domestic violence charity Women’s Aid backs this up. They found that more than 60% of survivors living with their abuser reported that the abuse they experienced got worse during the pandemic.

How to get help

Mortimer confirmed that the helpline has now been allocated extra funding from the government to help with the rising workload. 

Visit their website (https://revengepornhelpline.org.uk) to find advice “on how the law applies to their situation”, signposts people “to appropriate support services”, and removes “intimate content that has been shared online without consent”.

Email them here (help@revengepornhelpline.org.uk), contact them on Facebook Messenger or through the Anonymous messaging service ‘Whisper’. 

The operators are working from home, so are unable to take calls. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 999.