UK 'Love Island' star calls for revenge porn threats to be made a crime

by Darnell Christie | @darnellchristie | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 24 September 2020 15:31 GMT

Campaigner and reality TV star, Zara McDermott poses for a photo in front of British Parliament in central London, ahead of Domestic Abuse Bill debate to be had in the House of Lords in coming weeks. Photo handout courtesy of Susie Brady for Refuge, September 2020.

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Zara McDermott said she had twice been a victim of revenge porn as she joined the campaign for threats to be criminalised

By Darnell Christie

LONDON, Sept 24 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A British reality TV star who became a victim of revenge porn urged the government on Thursday to introduce a law making it a crime to threaten to share intimate images or videos.

"I've been a victim of revenge porn twice ... and it was one of the most horrific things that has ever happened to me," said Zara McDermott, a former parliamentary aide who shot to fame after appearing on the dating show "Love Island".

"In any criminal act the threat of that act is (also)important ... and I really think that (the government) should take that on board and really listen to victims' voices," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Although sharing sexual images or films without consent is a crime punishable by up to two years in prison, threatening to do so is not.

McDermott, who said she had heard from many women with similar stories to hers, joined a campaign outside parliament on Thursday calling for such threats to be criminalised under a long-awaited domestic abuse bill.

One in seven young women - and one in 14 adults overall - has received threats to share intimate images, according to a poll by domestic abuse charity Refuge.

Campaigners are calling for the law to be changed via an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill which is set to be debated by the upper house of parliament in the coming weeks.

"This is a really insidious form of abuse which can sometimes last with victims forever," Refuge policy manager Cordelia Tucker O'Sullivan said. "The government must act now to make this a crime."

She said victims who reported threats to the police were often "left in limbo" after being told no action could be taken unless the images were published.

"They may not even know if the intimate images exist which can have severe impacts on (their) mental health and physical safety," she added.

More than one in 10 women reported feeling suicidal as a result of receiving threats, according to the survey by Refuge.

The charity said most threats were a domestic abuse issue as they were predominantly made by current or former partners and often used as a means to control or manipulate the victim.

McDermott, 23, has previously told how intimate photos were shared when she was at school and again during her appearance on "Love Island" in 2018.

Several prominent British lawmakers as well as Victims Commissioner Dame Vera Baird and Domestic Abuse Commissioner Nicole Jacobs have backed calls to change the law.

Refuge said threatening to share intimate images without consent was already a crime in New Zealand, Australia, and several U.S. states.

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