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Revealed: Revenge porn mainly being carried out by women

By Jack Averty | Crime | Published:

Revenge porn across the West Midlands is mainly being carried out by women, new figures show.

Cases of revenge porn have increased steadily over the past three years

Women are the victims in the majority of revenge porn cases across the region but latest figures, released through a Freedom of Information request, also show that they are the vast majority of perpetrators as well.

It is believed women are bullying other women by posting intimate photos of them online, rather than the usual stereotype of scorned lovers looking for revenge.

In 2018 there were 150 cases of revenge porn across the West Midlands. Of these, 125 involved a female victim and 135 a female defendant.

The figures have increased steadily over the past three years.

In 2017 there were 126 cases with 108 female victims and 101 female defendants. 2016 saw 114 cases with 102 female victims and 79 female defendants. Police also recorded the gender of defendants as "unknown" 26 times that year.

The figures, released by West Midlands Police, also reveal the ages of victims and defendants as well as the outcome of the cases.

In nearly all revenge porn cases over the past three years, victims have been aged between 18 and 30, but some victims could have been as young as 13 or as old as 60 when they were targeted, according to the figures.

Only 12 people accused of carrying out revenge porn in 2018 were charged or cautioned. The majority of cases ended when the victim refused to co-operate or when police could not find a suspect.

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Sex-education expert Emily Burt, who co-founded Fumble UK, said: "I would hazard a guess that the majority of the revenge porn cases detailed in this FOI – where both female perpetrators and victims are involved – are the result of bullying activities rather than same-sex relationships turned sour.

"While people tend to think of revenge porn in the context of romantic relationships, that’s not exclusively the case; the story of Megan Hinton, who has publicly spoken about becoming a victim of slut-shaming after being tricked into sending a nude photo by a female classmate, is a classic example of this.”

She continued: “I think we could be doing much more to assist victims of revenge porn. The dialogue today is still too focused around ‘don’t send nudes’, rather than offering practical advice to victims of revenge porn.

"Additionally, while revenge porn is recognised as a crime, it’s treated as a communication offence rather than a sexual offence – which means people risk being publicly named if they bring a case to court. I think this is probably a fairly significant barrier to people being charged, if victims are concerned about being identified, and there is currently a petition to change this being led by Julia Mulligan, the North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner.”

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Sophie Mortimer, from the Revenge Porn Helpline, added: "The stereotype, encouraged by most media coverage, does indeed seem to be the young man sharing images of a former partner, but the picture is usually far more complex than that.

"The sharing of intimate images is frequently a part of patterns of behaviour such as domestic abuse, coercive control, harassment or stalking, and this is as true for female offenders as male. We do have cases of new partners (female) sharing images of ex-partners; also the wives of cheating husbands sharing images of female lovers. But female perpetrators are, in our experience, in the minority. We do get cases from across the LGBT community, but more frequently gay men than gay women.

"It is very concerning that the number of incidents of the sharing of intimate images is rising while charging and prosecutions are falling. Sadly, the reports that we get from clients of responses from the police are disappointing, betraying a lack of understanding of the law or how to collect evidence and a victim-blaming attitude.

"The law could be improved to provide more protection for victims, such as the explicit inclusion of threats to share, making it a sexual offence granting anonymity to victims and removing the intention to cause distress criteria. Followed up by an effective training programme. Research was carried out in 2017 which showed that 95% of police surveyed had not received formal training, so clearly there is a long way to go."

Jack Averty

By Jack Averty
Senior Reporter - @javerty_star

Reporter with the Express & Star, based at head office in Wolverhampton

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