June 4, 2021

HJ Talks About Abuse: When Nudes Are Stolen and Image Based Abuse

Jess Davies features in the new BBC documentary ‘When Nudes Are Stolen’.

Jess is a former glamour model and is now a presenter. She is joined in the documentary by a number of guests, including glamour model Joey Fisher.

Jess explains how she has spent the last 10 years trying to have her images removed from catfish sites, porn sites and dating websites. Of the many problems she has faced from this, she discusses how her images have been used to extortion money from men and also depicting her working on an escort site. Jess discloses how she has had 1000’s of messages from men who think they have spoken with her or have sent her money.

It is clear the distress and impact that this has on Jess throughout the documentary. This has impacted her confidence and relationships. This is also true of Joey Fisher who she then interviews.

The concerns raised whilst watching this documentary mirror that of many individuals who have suffered revenge porn. Jess explains the difficulties she has had having these images of her removed from websites, and only to be removed from one website appear on another.  

Organisations have now been set up to remove these images from sites for individuals impacted by this, but this comes with a heavy fee, which many people just don’t have.

There can be significant costs involved not just financially but emotionally too.

Another issue raised in the documentary is what has become known as ‘E-Whoring’. This is where individuals sell mega - folders of images of women online (sometimes with hundreds of images in one folder of one person). Users can log on and request a specific individual and within minutes can be sent a bundle of such individuals images. Websites have been set up to exchange these bundle folders for cash payments. The term alone connotes that the person is choosing to be passed around.  This is hardly conducive to enabling people to feel that they can come forward as victims.  This is image based abuse.

Jess interviews one woman who has been impacted by such exchanging of images and felt that she became nothing more than a commodity to trade.  Sadly, as explored the impact of this has had a lasting impact, including suicidal ideations.

The concerning message that comes across from the documentary is how normalised it has become to trade images on the web without restriction or the consent of the individual in the images. Technology is so fast paced that our current laws do not keep up.

In regards  to consent, it is of course absolutely possible for someone to share a nude photo and consent for the recipient to have it for limited or particular purposes only, not to be shared.  This is somewhat more difficult where someone has allowed photos of themselves to be published online or in a magazine to strangers as discussed in Jess’ situation.

 

In Ireland in December 2020 the criminal images based sexual abuse bill was passed which provides more protection. However, in England and Wales an offence is only committed if sharing an intimate image is done with the intention to cause distress. This therefore has many loopholes. As we have previously discussed, progress is being made for change with campaigns like The Naked Truth which aims to make threats to share intimate images a crime. 

In regards to causes of action, there are a number of routes all very much depend on the facts of the case. 

There are potential claims for Harassment under the Harassment Act 1997 if there has been a course of conduct.

There may be a claim for intentional infliction of harm if there has been unjustified conduct which has caused psychiatric injury. For example, sharing photos without consent or inducing a child to take photos or sending photos of oneself might be unjustified conduct.  So might putting someone's face on someone else's nude body (deepfakes). Also sharing a photo that was provided for a limited purpose. 

Misuse of confidential information if confidential and private information (including images) is given to someone in a relationship of trust and confidence who makes unauthorised use or disclosure of it, there is a claim.  So, this would also cover images freely shared in a relationship and then misused.  It would also cover other information shared.

Infringement of privacy. This overlaps with the above and is a cause of action where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. 

Breach of copyright of whoever owns the photograph. There may also be a claim under Data Protection depending on the facts.

Again, depending on the facts of the case would depend on who the potential defendant to make the claim against is.

The person who posts the image would be the most obvious defendant.  The person who takes the picture of the victim or is given it for a limited purpose and then shares it. 

Sharers might be liable depending on the circumstances in which the image came into the sharer's possession. Sadly, the people hosting the websites sharing multi folder images are likely to be organised criminals which would not be operated by reputable UK domiciled businesses. 

There is also difficulty consumers who just view the images if they are not themselves selling them on.

We encourage anyone who has concerns about sexual abuse to get in touch. You can contact Alan Collins at Alan.collins@hughjames.com or Danielle Vincent at  Danielle.vincent@hughjames.com

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