Wales

Revenge porn victims often blamed, says helpline

Woman with head in hands looking at a computer Image copyright Thinkstock

Revenge porn victims are often wrongly blamed for bringing the offences on themselves, a charity has said.

Laura Higgins, of the Revenge Porn Helpline, said some police forces also did not take the crime seriously.

Figures show 56 reports have been made to police in Wales since specific legislation came into force in April.

All Welsh forces said they took allegations seriously and had dedicated staff to tackle the issue and support victims.

In April, it became a specific criminal offence in England and Wales to share explicit sexual images or videos of someone without their permission.

Since then, most alleged victims in Wales have been women, with just 13 men making reports to police.

Reports of revenge porn 2015

56

Offences reported in total

  • South Wales Police 22

  • Gwent Police 20

  • North Wales Police 10

  • Dyfed-Powys Police 4

PA

During that period, many of the images were shared on social media sites including Facebook and Snapchat or sent via text and Whatsapp messages.

Laura Higgins, of the UK-wide Revenge Porn Helpline, which has received 2,800 calls since it was set up in February, said despite increased awareness on the issue in recent years, there was still widespread misunderstanding of the issue.

"It's a really nasty form of abuse, it's like harassment. People's responses from the police depends on where you live. It's started to get a little bit better but it's still not great," she said.

"Police forces often don't take it seriously. There's a lot of victim-blaming that happens, unfortunately, and in particular men get a really tough break with this."

Ms Higgins said the key to tackling that stigma was to increase awareness, which would also help victims feel confident about coming forward.

'Distressing ordeal'

But despite increasing media attention on the issue, Ms Higgins said revenge porn was not a "growing phenomenon", as many of those coming forward were victims of historic offences not covered by the new legislation.

Det Ch Insp David Hough, of South Wales Police, which received the most reports, said protecting people from sexual offences was a priority.

He added the force was raising awareness of the dangers of "sexting" and offences committed by those sharing and distributing indecent images.

Det Supt Ian Roberts, of Gwent Police, said: "Experiencing a breach of trust and having your privacy violated can be a particularly distressing ordeal, and I would like to reassure victims that we have the appropriate help and support available, and will take positive action against anyone who commits this type of crime."

A Dyfed-Powys Police spokeswoman said victims would be treated with sensitivity and would be offered advice, including how material posted on the internet can be removed.

North Wales Police's Det Supt Jo Williams said the force took the offences very seriously, adding: "This crime is entirely preventable and I would encourage the public to consider this."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Many of the images were sent via text and Whatsapp

South Wales Police also provided figures for offences reported for the five previous years, when the crime came under other legislation.

Between 2010 and 2014, five people were cautioned and eight people were charged under the Malicious Communications Act, while 27 people were cautioned and a further 27 were charged during the same period under the Communications Act 2013.

The other three forces did not provide data for previous years.

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