Revenge Porn Helpline in Crisis

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By fizkes via Shutterstock.com

Recent cuts to government funding could mean the UK’s revenge porn helpline will close in March. This service, originally organised by online safety activist Laura Higgins, has been helping revenge porn victims for about two years. In the last twelve months the helpline has taken 2,500 calls, yet many people fear a new reduced budget from the House of Commons is likely to signal an end to its operation.

At ReputationDefender we work with many clients who are victims of revenge porn. The public sharing of explicit material can have a devastating effect on the subject. It limits careers, destroys personal relationships and causes severe loss of self-esteem. The helpline has been a valuable service that helps victims realise there are ways to fight back.

History of the Helpline

Prior to passage of the 2015 law, Higgens was one of major voices calling for the criminalisation of revenge porn. As online safety operations manager at South West Grid for Learning, she already ran a helpline for professionals dealing with all sorts of internet related difficulties. Higgens was alerted to the problem of revenge porn after working with a teacher who faced suspension as result of some leaked pictures that had gone viral. However, watching the number of cases rise, she knew more had to be done. “There were so many victims,” she said, but they all “thought they were the only one.”

As a result of Higgens’ work, revenge porn is beginning to become a recognised crime in the UK. The new law, which went into effect in April 2015, directly prohibits the disclosure of “private sexual images or film” and police are becoming much more familiar with this offence than they used to be. Nonetheless, there are still a lot of victims who don’t know their rights or who are afraid they will be targeted with more harassment if they come forward. The helpline is open five days a week and is an important resource for free legal advice.

The Future Remains Uncertain

According to the Guardian, the Revenge Porn Helpline has repeatedly discussed its financial issues with the government, but as yet there is neither a commitment to continue funding nor an announcement of closure. Labour MP, Sarah Champion, has been fight the decision to cut funding, pointing out that 5 percent of young people aged 13–21 have had explicit material shared against their will, while 20 percent have received these images unsolicited. Without a helpline, who will assist young people with getting their cases heard? However, she hasn’t received much support from the current minister for women and equalities, Justine Greening.

There have been more than 200 instances of prosecution under the new revenge porn law, but the crisis is far from over. Rates of victimisation in the UK continue to grow, spurred on by large sites that encourage this type of posting. If the helpline is forced to close in March victims will need to find other resources, or the number of prosecutions is likely to drop again. Anyone currently struggling with this issue should contact our experts at ReputationDefender for more information.

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