Intimate image abuse
Intimate image abuse includes the criminal acts of sharing, taking or threatening to share private sexual images without consent. Intimate image abuse can also be referred to as 'revenge porn', non-consensual pornography or image-based sexual abuse.
It is a criminal offence to disclose, or threaten to disclose, a private sexual image without consent with the intention of causing distress. Voyeurism (recording a sexual image without knowledge for the purpose of sexual gratification) is a sexual offence.
Intimate image abuse can be committed by anyone and anyone can be a victim. If you have been a victim, please remember this isn’t your fault and you haven’t done anything wrong.
Intimate image abuse can take various forms, including:
Sharing of intimate images without consent (‘revenge porn’)
Intimate image abuse refers to the non-consensual sharing of intimate images and videos with the intent to cause distress. This is sometimes referred to as 'revenge porn' or 'image-based abuse'. This content can be shared in a multitude of ways including, in-person, through texts, emails and messages, on social media platforms, porn sites and in group chats.
In April 2015, the Criminal Justice and Courts Act made it, 'an offence for a person to disclose a private sexual photograph or film if the disclosure is made without the consent of an individual who appears in the photograph or film, and with the intention of causing that individual distress'.
Threats to share intimate images without consent
This refers to an implicit or explicit threat by a known person (for example, an ex-partner or family member) to share an individual’s intimate or sexually explicit material without their consent. The perpetrator makes the threats to cause distress to the individual.
Threats to share intimate images with the intent to cause distress is now an offence in UK law. This is included within the Domestic Abuse bill. This was enacted into UK law on 29 June 2021, if the threat happened before this date, it may not be included.
For further information about domestic abuse, see ‘Domestic abuse and stalking’.
Sextortion and webcam blackmail
Sextortion, also known as ‘webcam blackmail’, is when intimate images and videos are recorded and used for financial exploitation and coercion. The majority of cases involve individuals meeting via social media or dating websites and forming a relationship through conversation. The blackmailer often assumes the identity of a stereotypically attractive man or woman who, after gaining the victim's trust, will quickly persuade them into sending intimate images or videos or will record sexual content without the victim’s knowledge or consent. The images and videos will then be used to blackmail them for money or further sexual content. Sextortion can be committed by an individual or by organised criminal gangs overseas.
Voyeurism and upskirting
In the UK, it is against the law to record a private or sexual image or video of someone without their knowledge or consent for sexual gratification. This is classed as voyeurism and is covered under Section 67 of the Sexual Offences Act (2003).
In 2019, upskirting was included in a subsection of voyeurism within the Sexual Offences Act. Upskirting involves filming or photographing under a person’s clothes without their consent to capture images of their body or underwear. The law requires that there is an intention on the part of the perpetrator to either: obtain sexual gratification, or cause humiliation, alarm or distress to the victim.
Our Online harassment guide provides further information, help and support for students including recommended contacts for specialist support services.
External specialist support services
Revenge Porn Helpline
0345 6000 459
National helpline supporting adults (those over the age of 18) who are victims of intimate image abuse
Sussex - Victim Support
Practical and emotional support for people who have been affected by crime, including intimate image abuse, in Sussex.
Get Safe Online
National organisation providing information and advice on online safety.
NCII: Stop Non-Consensual Intimate Image Abuse
A free tool designed to support victims of Non-Consensual Intimate Image (NCII) abuse. The tool works by generating a hash from your intimate image(s)/video(s).