Page 2765 - Week 08 - Wednesday, 16 August 2017

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with consent, but sometimes without consent. One facet of the practice is where the sharing of these images is consensual. In many cases the sharing of those images is part of a relationship between two people. The sharing of images is done in good faith and as part of that relationship.

Some social commentators believe that sexting can be seen as a normal, everyday part of modern day courtship for young people. It may not seem relevant or acceptable to some older people, but it is very common amongst young people, according to the research. The problem comes when some of these relationships break down, often acrimoniously. Then we can see and we have seen the sharing of those images to a wider audience without the consent of the person involved.

Some of these may even lead to what is colloquially known as revenge porn, although that does of course imply a sort of victim blaming label, if you like. It implies that someone has done something that means someone is going to take revenge on them and that is not usually the case at all. It is when a jilted, angry or jealous partner is threatening to use these images to exact some form of financial or emotional blackmail et cetera against a former partner.

Recently it has become apparent how easily this can be done. Images that may originally have been taken and shared consensually can so readily be shared to a wider audience. First we saw this I think with so-called celebrity sex tapes, where somehow people got hold of tapes or videos of well-known people and shared them, sometimes for financial gain.

But it has grown. It is not just your well-known people; it is all of us who are potentially at risk here. They can be sending them via email, via social media networking sites or even, quite disturbingly, there have been some websites set up with the specific aim and intention of sharing these types of images and videos. It is quite a disturbing thing.

It is quite obviously an area where legislation has failed to keep up with common practice. The legislation has been lagging behind. What that has meant is that victims often had very little recourse against their abusers. But today, through Mr Hanson’s bill, we have the opportunity for us to take that back and make it a crime to take some of these actions.

It is true that we need to encourage young people to understand what is right and what is not right, what they can and cannot do and what they should and should not do. That is important. It is equally important to put an end to any of that victim-blaming approach. When many of our laws were created these types of technologies did not even exist, even in our imagination.

The legislation today is bringing us just that bit better up to date, although it is easy to see that it is going to be a struggle to keep pace with changes in technology all the time. The harm caused through this sharing of images can be so detrimental to victims. It can affect their family life and their work life and have really devastating effects.

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