CORK TD Holly Cairns has called for immediate action to be taken in relation to “image-based crimes and so-called revenge porn”.
Gardaí confirmed that they have “commenced probative enquires” into the uploading and sharing of thousands of intimate and sexual images of Irish women to online forums.
Some of the images are believed to have been taken from various social media platforms. It is also suspected that some of the images or footage were taken without the consent or knowledge of the women involved.
“There are online folders with thousands of images that have been taken and shared without consent,” Ms Cairns said in the Dáil yesterday. “This primarily affects young women and some of them are underage.
“I’d like to send a clear message to anyone whose images have been shared without your consent. It is not your fault, you didn’t do anything wrong, and you’re not to blame, however, unfortunately, despite warnings about situations like this one, image-based sexual abuse is still not a crime here.”
Justice Minister Helen McEntee said: “Harassment and abuse in any form, whether online or otherwise, is utterly unacceptable and has no place in Irish society. Progression of the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill is a priority action for me as Minister for Justice and I am committed to seeing it enacted as quickly as possible.”
Speaking to The Echo, Mick Barry TD said public pressure is needed in order to ensure change.
“There needs to be pressure placed on Justice Minister Helen McEntee to move quickly on the passing and then implementation of that legislation,” he said.
A Cork woman who has previously had images of her posted online without consent said while she would welcome new laws to protect victims, she remains concerned at when real change will occur.
“Because of what happened to me, I think it will be a few years before we see significant change,” she told The Echo. “I think attitudes need to change. We do need laws… but I want to see societal change. I want to see lessons in school to teach boys what consent means. I just think society as a whole needs to really take a look at itself.”
Mary Crilly, CEO of the Sexual Violence Centre Cork, said situations like this have been an issue impacting women and girls for many years.
“There is nothing new about it,” she said. “I think the prevalence and the extent of it is quite huge and I don’t that that anybody over the years that anybody has really taken it seriously.
“I think what keeps this going all the time is silence about and hopefully people will release the implications and how devastating it is for people or for young girls to see their photographs up there.”