Campaign launched to change proposed legislation relating to revenge porn

Aoibhín Meghen

Last week a campaign began to put an end to image based sexual abuse (IBSA), or what is sometimes known as “revenge porn.” The campaign launched after a discord server containing thousands of intimate photos belonging to Irish women was discovered. 

The images on this server were taken illegally from OnlyFans accounts or were shared by their original recipient without consent. One folder was purportedly labelled “16 yo”, implying that some of these images were of underage girls.

The group End IBSA is calling for changes to be made to the proposed legislation pertaining to sexual abuse and the sharing of intimate photos.

According to Shane Murray of End IBSA, IBSA is the sharing of intimate photos “specifically intended for someone” without the sender’s knowledge of permission.

Although this recent incident has brought the topic of IBSA into the spotlight, this is not the first time a server containing hundreds of thousands of private images was discovered. 

However, Murray explained that the delay in providing legislation in this area and the pandemic increasing the amount of virtual sex taking place has created “a perfect storm.”

“Revenge porn is legal in Ireland because there are no laws against it so when you couple this with the HSE’s advice at the start of lockdown to move everything to online sex…then it’s kind of a perfect storm for this exact thing to happen,” said Murray.

Linda Hayden is co-founder of The Victim’s Alliance, an organisation that lobbies for the protection of victims of crimes. She told The College View that the Victim’s Alliance “knew there was a certain amount of file sharing going on.”

The organisation has an image based crime section which is led by Megan Sims. Sims first began campaigning against IBSA five years ago after her own images were shared without consent. 

According to Hayden, since beginning work with the Victim’s Alliance, Sims has been extremely busy and “it’s easy to see why” when incidents like this occur.

Both End IBSA and the Victim’s Alliance want significant changes to be made to the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Other Related Offences Bill which will provide legislation to protect against IBSA.

The Bill was originally proposed by Labour in 2017 and according to Murray a major issue with it is that the victim must be able to show distress.

“The onus and the burden of proof is on the victim to show that they were distressed by the sending of these images…which makes it really, really hard to prove anything,” explained Murray.

The Victim’s Alliance believes that the language in the legislation needs to be strong and absolute surrounding consent. They would like to see a situation where “the accused has to prove that they got consent,” said Hayden.

They also want offences relating to not deleting images after a person has asked you to or sending images without the recipient’s consent to be introduced.

As well as changes to the proposed legislation, the Victim’s Alliance feel that many changes could be adopted within Irish society to prevent incidents of IBSA from continuing to occur.

A programme called “Locker Room Talk” is something that the Victims Alliance would like to see introduced in Ireland.  “Locker Room Talk” was developed in Sweden and is a peer led initiative for sports clubs.

In this programme an older person in the club would deliver eight half hour sessions before training. These sessions would focus on topics such as, language, respect, consent, and homophobia, explained Hayden.

She hopes that a programme like this would be introduced into all sporting organisations and secondary schools in Ireland and she also encourages that parents sit down with their children to talk about consent.

“Every conversation matters about this,” said Hayden, “the only thing that will work is peer led pressure.”

Murray has a similar view as he believes people should “call out sexism and call out misogyny” wherever they see it.

End IBSA are organising a virtual protest on Saturday, November 28th where they will be announcing further campaigns relating to IBSA.

Aoibhín Meghen

Image Credit: Andrew Brookes Corbis