Refuge responds to Ministry of Justice announcement to make threatening to share intimate images a crime

 

Victory for women who face threats to share their intimate images – as government commits to making it a crime.

(Interviews available on request with Refuge spokespeople, Zara McDermott, survivor and campaigner Natasha Saunders and Baroness Nicky Morgan. Please contact the Refuge press office on 0207 395 7731 or email press@refuge.org.uk)

  • The Naked Threat Campaign, led by Refuge, its supporters, survivors, celebrities and Baroness Morgan secures law change at first opportunity. Refuge says this is a ‘victory for women and girls and testimony to the power of campaigning together’.
  • Baroness Morgan says ‘At the start of this campaign, I said it was my duty as a politician to stand up and protect women and girls and I am delighted the government has recognised the urgency of securing this law change
  • Just under 45,000 Refuge supporters wrote to government ministers urging them to make law change.
  • Campaign video fronted by Refuge ambassador Olivia Colman and campaign supporter Zara McDermott calling on Home Secretary Priti Patel and Secretary of State for Justice Robert Buckland to change the law viewed over 180,000 times on social media.

Refuge is thrilled that the government has committed to amending the Domestic Abuse Bill to make threats to share intimate images a criminal offence. This is a victory for women and girls and brings a huge sense of relief to the 1 in 7 young women who experience this form of abuse in the UK, and have had limited recourse to justice.

Refuge has been working tirelessly for many months to bring this devastating form of domestic abuse to the top of the political agenda and we are delighted that the government has recognised this urgent need for change. Until now, only the sharing of intimate images has been a crime – this will change when the Domestic Abuse Bill becomes law.

The success of The Naked Threat campaign is a shared one and is testament to the power of working together. This victory for women and girls has been made possible thanks to the dedication of brave survivors who have shared their stories; Refuge’s specialist tech abuse team, who continue to support survivors experiencing threats to share; politicians including Baroness Nicky Morgan, Lord Ken Macdonald and Caroline Nokes MP who have pushed for this vital amendment to the Bill; and Refuge supporters, Olivia Colman and Zara McDermott as well as survivor Natasha Saunders, who have helped us raise awareness of this issue.

Refuge also owes a huge debt of thanks to its supporters, just under 45,000 of whom sent letters to the Home Secretary and Secretary of State for Justice calling for them to change the law around intimate image-based abuse; and to the more than 180,000 who viewed our video message to Priti Patel, the Home Secretary (created free of charge by creative agency AMV BBDO and supported by media partner Cosmo).

Hetti Barkworth-Nanton, chair of Refuge said:

‘This is a fantastic outcome for Refuge and for the women and children it serves. Threatening to share intimate images has become a powerful way in which men who abuse women control their choices and it is heart-warming to know that the government has listened to survivor voices. As we see the Domestic Abuse Bill enter its report stage next week we will do so knowing that it will transform this country’s response to women and children who experience domestic abuse.’

Lisa King, Refuge director of communications and external relations said:

‘This is a significant moment for women experiencing domestic abuse who have been threatened with the sharing of their private intimate images and we are thrilled that the government has recognised the need for urgent change. Our research found that 1 in 7 young women have experienced these threats to share, with the overwhelming majority experiencing them from a current or former partner, alongside other forms of abuse. The Domestic Abuse Bill provides the perfect legislative vehicle for this change, and the government has acted quickly and decisively. This is a victory for women and girls and testimony to the power of working together for change.

’Refuge’s specialist tech team identified this gap in the law and our campaign, launched last summer, gave a clear pathway to change. We have worked with brave survivors throughout this campaign who have shared their stories – ensuring that the government could see and hear from the people impacted by this issue. Refuge is grateful to every woman who has come forward and told us their experiences – they have helped us change the law.’

Baroness Morgan, former Minister for Women and Equalities and former Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said:

‘I know from my time in DCMS just how technology has been used not only for good, but also as a tool of abuse. Together with Refuge, with survivors of abuse and with colleagues from across the House, I’ve been determined to secure this law change. I am grateful to the government for acting decisively. This simple law change can help to transform the response to domestic abuse across the country and better protect women and girls. At the start of this campaign, I said it was my duty as a politician to stand up and protect women and girls and I’m delighted the government has recognised the urgency of securing this law change.’

Zara McDermott, Love Island star and campaigner said:

‘This is such welcome news. My life when I left the Love Island villa was turned upside down as a result of the sharing of intimate images. I’m so glad I’ve been able to use my platform to support Refuge and call for this change in the law. Together with survivors, with politicians and with the thousands of supporters that took action, we did it! Change is coming and I am thrilled’.

Natasha Saunders, survivor of domestic abuse said:

‘My perpetrator threatened to share my intimate images with friends and family. He did so to attempt to further control and abuse me.  I was terrified of the consequences and it had a huge impact on me. I am now free from my abuser but every day I know that there are millions of women experiencing the things I was forced to endure for so long. I am so pleased that the government has not only listened to survivors of domestic abuse, but also acted on what they heard. This is a huge victory for women like me’.