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Victim group says UK's revenge porn laws aren't working

The number of charges has dropped despite more investigations.
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RyanKing999 via Getty Images

The UK's move to treat revenge porn as a specific crime was supposed to catch perpetrators who'd otherwise slip through the cracks, but that doesn't appear to have worked out in practice. The Revenge Porn helpline has collected police data showing that the number of related charges dropped 23 percent between the periods of 2015-2016 and 2018-2019 despite the number of investigations more than doubling over the same space of time. Just 158 people faced charges, the helpline said. The shortfall is pinned on both shortcomings in the law itself as well as a lack of understanding from police.

As revenge porn is treated like a communications crime rather than a sexual crime, victims aren't guaranteed anonymity. They might be afraid to speak out knowing that the culprit might retaliate, and over a third of victims from the past year have decided against pursuing cases. Police, meanwhile, frequently don't know how to handle the crime. A 2017 University of Suffolk study showed that 95 percent of officers hadn't had any training on the subject.

The country's Home Office and Ministry of Justice defended the practice in a mutual statement, saying they'd worked with victims and activists who agreed that revenge porn shouldn't be considered a sex offense since the intentions were "almost always malicious" rather than sexual. Whether or not that's true, that doesn't alleviate concerns that the law might need tweaking to prove effective and deter people from treating sensitive photos as weapons.

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