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'Revenge porn' legislation welcomed by campaigners

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Laurie Shiell, the executive director of Centre Against Abuse (Photograph supplied)

Campaigners for victims of sex abuse have backed proposed legislation designed to target “revenge porn”.

Laurie Shiell, the executive director of the Centre Against Abuse, said that the law would be a step in the right direction – but added that the maximum sentence for convicted offenders should be higher than the proposed five years.

She said: “If the victim is so traumatised by what happened to them and they end up taking their lives because of what has happened, then it has to be more than five years.”

Ms Shiell was speaking after Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney General, tabled legislation last Friday that would outlaw the use of social media to spread intimate sexual images without the subject’s consent.

The new law, if approved, will make it a crime to observe, record or distribute images or video of a person carrying out private or intimate acts and/or showing intimate parts of their body without their knowledge or permission.

Ms Shiell said that the legislation was “extremely necessary” and could help women and men affected by abusive relationships.

She added: “So many individuals have had revenge porn used as a mechanism to control them – either to keep them in relationships or to punish them after they leave.”

Ms Shiell also praised the amount of detail in the legislation and added that it helped cover “the entire gambit of what should be illegal”.

Ms Simmons told the House of Assembly last Friday that present laws from the 1980s did not tackle the new phenomenon where intimate images could be “weaponised”.

She added that the courts could also make “rectification orders” for the removal, recovery, deletion or destruction of offending images after a successful prosecution.

Elaine Butterfield, the executive director of the Womens Resource Centre

Elaine Butterfield, the executive director of the Women's Resource Centre, said the law would be “a major step forward for all of those affected”.

She added: “Revenge porn occurs far too often, particularly in such a small community as Bermuda where many of us know each other and it can affect a reputation or even employment.

“The community will become more aware and hopefully this can act as a deterrent to those who might not think twice about posting sexually explicit information about others online.”

Ms Butterfield said that revenge porn had been a problem “for a while now” and could subject victims to feelings of shame, as well as the trauma of having their private lives exposed.

She added that the law could help give victims – particularly young people because they were the “greatest online users” – the support they needed.

Campaign group Social Justice Bermuda said they were had called for similar legislation.

A spokeswoman said: “Our 2020 platform advocated for ‘creating and amending legislation to protect against modern forms of sexual harassment and abuse, including introducing revenge porn legislation’, so we are pleased to see the Progressive Labour Party government have this as a priority for this legislative session.

“We personally know of women who have been victimised in this way and finally they will have a way to seek justice.”

Ianthia Simmons-Wade, a PLP MP, said that the law highlighted the “steady progress” the Government had made on legal updates.

She added: “With social media and near-universal access to cameras, people, particularly women, have been victimised by attacks on their privacy through the malicious distribution of personal images without their consent.”

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Published March 24, 2021 at 4:08 pm (Updated March 24, 2021 at 4:08 pm)

'Revenge porn' legislation welcomed by campaigners

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