19 November 2020
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) is deeply troubled by news that tens of thousands of personally explicit images and videos were shared online this week without consent. The creation and/or distribution of private sexual images without consent is not revenge porn, it’s image-based sexual abuse.
Discussions of new legislation are due at the Dáil’s Justice Committee on 1 December. New legislation should ensure that victims’ experiences are taken into account and must encompass definitions of consent and intent that reflect the sexual nature of this crime. ICCL is preparing a comprehensive submission on this legislation.
Last year, in a submission to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality, ICCL called for the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act to be amended to outlaw the creation and/or sharing of private sexual images without consent. We also called for an expansion of legal aid to ensure victims can take cases when their rights have been violated in this way.
The current law covers general harassment but is not always directly transferable to cases of online harassment. The requirement that harassment consists of ‘persistently following, watching, pestering, besetting or communicating’ means the prosecution have to prove a pattern of harassment. This opens a lacuna in the law whereby individual acts of harassment like those exposed this week can’t be prosecuted effectively.
The absence of effective laws criminalising online harassment means the perpetrators often go unpunished and victims are left without protection or justice.
If you have experienced image-based sexual abuse you are not alone and it’s not your fault. We urge anyone affected by the events this week to contact established organisations working in the area of sexual abuse such as the Rape Crisis Networks who may be able to offer support. You can also make a complaint to the Data Protection Commissioner or to the Gardaí.
Contacts for victims of image-based sexual abuse: www.rapecrisishelp.ie; https://www.womensaid.ie/services/helpline.html; https://www.garda.ie/en/crime/sexual-crime/what-are-sexual-assault-treatment-units-.html
Find our previous submission on image-based sexual abuse here: https://www.iccl.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/ICCL-Online-Harassment-Submission.pdf
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties is Ireland’s oldest independent human rights campaigning organisation. We monitor, educate and campaign to secure human rights for everyone in Ireland.
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