In this episode of HJ Talks about Abuse podcast, Alan Collins and Feleena Grosvenor discuss the Domestic Abuse Bill that was passed into law on 29 April 2021.

The Act, for the first time, provides a legal definition of domestic abuse. It also provides a number of protections to the millions of people who experience abuse.

The Act states that domestic abuse is:

1. Behaviour of a person (“A”) towards another person (“B”) is “domestic abuse” if;

(a) A and B are each aged 16 or over and are personally connected to each other, and

(b) the behaviour is abusive.

2. Behaviour is “abusive” if it consists of any of the following;

(a) physical or sexual abuse;

(b) violent or threatening behaviour;

(c) controlling or coercive behaviour;

(d) economic abuse (see subsection (4));

(e) psychological, emotional or other abuse;

and it does not matter whether the behaviour consists of a single incident or a course of conduct.

Some monumental measures include that abusers will no longer be allowed to directly cross-examine their victims in the family and civil courts and the extension of the offence of threatening to disclose intimate images.

The Act also provides the new offence, as discussed in a previous podcast, of Non-fatal strangulation.

Other measures include:

  • Victims will have better access to special measures in the courtroom to help prevent intimidation – such as protective screens and giving evidence via video link.
  • new police powers, including Domestic Abuse Protection Notices
  • extending the controlling or coercive behaviour offence to cover post-separation abuse
  • explicitly recognise children as victims if they see, hear or experience the effects of abuse 
  • establish in law the office of Domestic Abuse Commissioner and set out the Commissioner’s functions and powers
  • placing a duty on local authorities in England to provide support to victims of domestic abuse and their children in refuges and other safe accommodation 
  • provide that all eligible homeless victims of domestic abuse automatically have ‘priority need’ for homelessness assistance
  • place the guidance supporting the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (“Clare’s law”) on a statutory footing 

We encourage anyone who has concerns about sexual abuse, domestic abuse or related matters, to get in touch with Alan Collins at alan.collins@hughjames.com or Feleena Grosvenor at Feleena.grosvenor@hughjames.com.

Sources:

Landmark Domestic Abuse Bill receives Royal Assent  - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Domestic Abuse Act: Factsheet - Home Office in the media (blog.gov.uk)

Domestic Abuse Bill: For these victims, a new law is long overdue - BBC News

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

Holly grew up in a small town in Washington State.  At 3 years old her stepfather began to abuse her.  The abuse continued until she was 12 when her mother and stepfather divorced. 

 

At 14, Holly disclosed the abuse she had suffered to her mother.  Holly found out her stepfather had also abused the young children in the next family he went to.

 

Holly went on to testify against her abuser. He was offered a plea deal to plead guilty to indecent liberties (which is fondling or touching in America) instead of being charged with sexual abuse or rape.  He was sentenced to less than a year.  When he got out he moved back in with the children he had abused and his wife breaking his bail conditions.  He was sent back to prison for a few years.

 

Her abuser was removed from the sexual predator list as Washington State has a law to protect those falsely accused and invites those with good behaviour off the list after a time.

 

At 40 Holly’s marriage broke down. She was not faithful. She commenced trauma counselling, a 30-day intensive trauma program.  Holly realised she was holding on to so much guilt about not disclosing her abuse sooner.  She believes it is never too late to seek help and recovery options for everyone.

 

It is now 12 years since she entered the recovery program.  She has also attended Sex and Love Addiction meetings and completed another two-week outpatient intensive course on relationships as a mom and abandonment issues.

 

Holly is now focused on how can she can give back to other survivors? She is now a certified coach focusing on helping professionals. She relocated to Northern Ireland and has spent the last year working for a charity that focused on providing counselling of those affected by sexual assault. 

 

Holly’s goal now is to be an advocate for survivors by becoming an Ambassador for NAASCA.  She started ASCA meetings for survivors in Northern Ireland and therapist. Holly’s ultimate goal is to open an intensive program in Northern Ireland and advocate for survivors.

 

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

Over the last few months, we have discussed abuse in education by teachers.

Within such profession, we expect a high standard from those looking after children to have sufficient background checks and be of suitable character.

We now turn to discuss abuse overseas following the conviction of British Music National teacher, James Alexandra.

Alexandra was a former British employed teacher who had worked at Bromsgrove International School in Bangkok.  During his time overseas, he tried to orchestrate the abuse of young girls in the Philippines.

Alexandra had been subject to an investigation where it was found he had sent 15 money transactions to unidentified facilitators known for live-streaming child abuse from Iligan City in Northern Mindanao, Philippines.

Evidence was accumulated against Alexandra that he was carrying out offences between 2017-2020. His devices were seized on arrival in the UK which showed he had asked the facilitators to send him images of girls under 13 posing indecently. Investigators also said they found numerous illicit photos of minors on Alexander’s phone along with messages in which he described how would like to abuse children as young as 4.

The investigation noted, Alexander tried to arrange travel to the Philippines to abuse children in person, but there are no records of him ever traveling there.

The UK National Crime Agency’s senior investigating officer, Hazel Stewart stated “Alexander clearly tried to manipulate and exploit the poverty of the vulnerable in order to gratify his sick sexual desires. He believed he could abuse Filipino children safely from his home and wanted to visit the Philippines to carry out the sexual abuse himself.”

Several children placed under protective care.

He was convicted of plotting to abuse children in the Philippines by the Leeds Crown Court, and was banned from all foreign travel and placed on a permanent sex offender list after trying to arrange to abuse children in the Philippines.

Alexandra was sentenced to five years in jail.

Sexual abuse against children conducted in different countries continues to be on the increase with ever evolving technology.

This is not the first time we see such shocking headlines.  BBC investigations presented by Stacey Dooley documented “Mums Selling Their Kids for Sex” in the Philippines where Filipino mothers sexually abuse their own children, live in front of webcams in exchange for money.

ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), conducted a secret operation in the hope of arresting several mothers who were selling their own children for sex.

The investigation found the disturbing reality was many of the abusers were coming from the US and the UK.

Abusers can still face criminal sanctions in the UK even if the offences are committed abroad.

Hugh James acted for the claimants in the successful High Court action brought against Derek Slade who had sexually abused boys in the Philippines. Slade was found by the judge to have sexually abused five boys and ordered him to pay them compensation.

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.

Islington Council has published a proposed support payment scheme for survivors of abuse suffered while placed by the council in one of its children’s homes from 1966 to 1995.

The proposed scheme would enable abuse survivors to receive a financial support payment of £8,000, without having to bring a civil compensation claim.

Find out more about the proposed scheme in our recent blog.

April was Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and one way to raise awareness was by wearing jeans on 'Denim Day' which was on 28 April 2021.

Denim Day is on a Wednesday in April every year and is to remind society of the dangers and injustices of victim blaming.

The campaign began after the Italian Supreme Court, in 1999, overturned a rape conviction in which an 18-year-old student in Italy was raped by her 45-year-old driving instructor during a driving lesson in 1992. They ruled that because she was wearing tight jeans, there must have been consent. The following day, the women in the Italian Parliament came to work wearing jeans in solidarity with the victim.

Since then, what started as a local campaign to bring awareness to victim blaming and destructive myths that surround sexual violence has grown into a movement. We are all familiar with the refrain: “she was asking for it…”; “what did he expect?”. These are of course weak excuses for criminal behaviour, if not outright condonement.

Denim Day asks community members, elected officials, businesses and students to make a social statement with their fashion statement by wearing jeans on this day as a visible means of protest against the misconceptions that surround sexual violence.

This is particular apt given current concerns about sexual assault and harassment in schools and universities.

Ofsted inspectors are to carry out checks on schools in England that have been the subject of recent complaints about sexual harassment and assault.

The education watchdog said inspection teams would visit a sample of institutions where cases have been highlighted on the Everyone’s Invited website, which has collected more than 14,000 testimonies including alleged rapes and sexual attacks among children of school age.

The visits will form part of an emergency review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges, due to be completed by the end of May.

Ofsted said it would not report on individual schools or cases but would look at good and bad practice across the country.

Details of Ofsted’s investigation can be found here and more information on Denim Day can be found on the website here.

This week on the HJ Talks About Abuse podcast we talk to guest Adrian Goldberg. Adrian is a radio presenter, ex BBC Watchdog and 5 Live investigator. He also has his own podcast, Byline Times Podcast.

Adrian is one of the creators of the Celtic Boys Club Scandal film and podcast.

Following numerous criminal trials and convictions, a media storm regarding abuse in football and the documentary Football’s Darkest Secrets, more and more clubs have been identified where boys were abused by coaches or scouts.

Adrian co-produced and released a film on YouTube called ‘The Celtic Boys Club Scandal’ which was a crowdfunded documentary regarding the abuse at Celtic Boys Club and failings to investigate or report such abuse. The film covers, Jim Torbett who was one of the coaches that later went on to be convicted amongst others.

We discuss the concerns that were raised at the time and failings. In addition the film covered some of the political issues.

During the podcast, we also discuss mandatory reporting and what further changes are needed in football, and wider sport in general.

The following organisations are available to contact for support:

We encourage anyone who has concerns about sexual abuse to get in touch. You can contact Alan Collins or Danielle Vincent.

Last week, our Partner, Alan Collins, was a guest on the British Wrestling Experience podcast. He joined host, Martin Bushby, to discuss the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Wrestling report, alongside Labour MP and co-chair of the group, Alex Davies-Jones and Will Cooling from PW Torch.

The All-party Parliamentary Group on Wrestling published it's report into professional wrestling in Great Britain on 8th April 2021.

The report makes interesting reading and the authors make a series of recommendations.

Wrestling has come on a long way from the days of Saturday afternoon television where audiences were entertained by stars such as Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks. These were household names.

That was a time when terms and concepts such as “safeguarding” did not feature on the public lexicon. Child abuse and any association with  wrestling or the risk of it would never have featured as a consideration. The APPG in its report have drawn to our attention, and in particular the world of wrestling, that the sport is not immune to the risk of child abuse, and that it needs to act.

In the podcast we discuss safeguarding and the risk of sexual abuse in wrestling, and what action needs to be taken to address the concerns raised by the APPG and others. Moreover, we discuss the implications for the sport if sexual abuse occurs, and the lessons that, perhaps, can be learnt for example the need to ensure that there is the right culture.

Technology continues to evolve, faster than our laws can keep up. Over the last few years, there have been increased concerns regarding the artificial intelligence known as 'Deep Fakes'.

Deep Fakes is the term used to describe taking the face of someone and placing it in any image or video of choosing. Simply, you only need a picture of the individuals face. Surprisingly, some of these videos can look incredibly real.

We have seen this in free apps such as 'Reface' which can be immediately downloaded to your phone. Such apps allow you to put your face on your favourite film character or make a still picture of you, or even have you sing or move.  For many this is humorous, to be a character in your favourite music video or film. We have all seen such videos on our friends or family’s social media accounts, where they have turned themselves into a Christmas character or A-List celebrity video.

However, there is a much sinister and disturbing side to this technology. Anyone can create such videos using your image without your consent. This can then be uploaded to the internet immediately. Concerns regarding deep fakes include conflicting political statements, blackmail and fraud. Barack Obama’s voice has been used in such videos as well as videos using Donald Trump’s face.

Statistics featured in the Huffington Post article note such videos are increasingly pornographic in nature, with 96% of deep fake clips featuring an image replacing that of a porn actor. During 2019, statistics found the number of videos online doubled in a year and of the 85,000 circulating online, 90 per cent are non-consensual porn featuring women and many included images/ or videos engaging in extreme acts of sexual violence.

As noted above, this has included photographs of celebrities, politicians and regular individuals. Taylor Swift, Maisie Williams, Emma Watson, Michelle Obama, Meghan Markle, Boris Johnson and Mark Zuckerberg include just a few that have been victims of deep fakes technology.

Just using one example, in 2017, a Reddit user made deep fake videos of ‘Maisie Williams’ and ‘Taylor Swift’ having sex. Within 8 weeks, it had 90,000 subscribers.

Clearly the impact to victims can be significant both emotionally and financially if this impacts the victims career.  There can be huge embarrassment to the victim if this is widely shown with friends, family and/or work colleagues, especially if the viewer does not realise the imagery is a fake.

As with revenge porn, there are a number of concerns including; who posted the content, proving they didn’t consent to this and having this removed from the site (or perhaps multiple sites).

Many social media platforms including Pornhub, Facebook and Twitter have tried to ban them after public pressure. There are two new pieces of legislation, the EU’s Digital Services Act and the UK’s proposed Online Harms bill, which will hold platforms responsible for the content they host. However, this offers little support to the victim.

In the UK, you can be prosecuted for harassment for making and distributing such images/videos. In May 2018, a 25-year-old male was jailed for 16 weeks and ordered to pay £5,000 in compensation for photoshopping pictures of a female intern to porn websites

A campaign has been started called #MyImageMyChoice, calling for legal changes worldwide pushing for a global human rights solution to the problem by the Government creating world-leading intimate image abuse laws.  This is to focus on the violation of privacy and require an online consent for such imaginary to be placed online.

At the start of March, the UK Law Commission published a consultation paper with testimonies from #MyImageMyChoice. It will therefore be a matter of time before we see what changes, regulations and further protective measures are put in place.

If you believe you are a victim of deep fakes, contact the website administrators requesting this is removed without delay. You may also wish to report this to the police to investigate potential harassment charges against the perpetrator.

We encourage anyone who has concerns about sexual abuse to get in touch. You can contact Alan Collins or Danielle Vincent.

In this podcast we discuss the recently published 'Nature of sexual assault by rape or penetration, England and Wales: year ending March 2020'.
The report from the Office for National Statistics is concerned with: Information from the Crime Survey for England and Wales on the amount, type and nature of sexual assault by rape or penetration (including attempts) experienced since the age of 16 years.

 

It provides a very comprehensive picture of sexual offending as it more-or-less is now. Information was collected from the general public and following analysis there are some stark headlines which warrant further consideration:

  • One in 40 women aged between 16 and 24 in England and Wales experience rape or assault by penetration, including attempts, each year, ONS estimates suggest.
  • Overall, 0.1% of men and 0.8% of women aged over 16 said they were victims of these crimes in the year to March 2020.
  • Some 773,000 adults aged 16 to 74 said they were victims of any type of sexual assault during the same period.
  • There were almost four times as many female victims of sexual assault as men, at 618,000, compared to 155,000.

Non-reporting and reporting to the police

Sexual offences are as the ONS noted often hidden crimes that are not reported to the police. The reasons for non-reporting  are often based in fear, shame, blackmail, and  a lack of appreciation that a complaint will be taken seriously by the authorities.

Therefore, data held by the police can only provide a partial picture of the actual level of crime experienced. One of the strengths of the Crime Survey for England and Wales is that it covers many crimes that are not reported to the police.

The year ending March 2020 Crime Survey for England and Wales estimated that 1.6 million adults aged 16 to 74 years had experienced sexual assault by rape or penetration (including attempts) since the age of 16 years.

Of victims who experienced sexual assault by rape or penetration (including attempts) since the age of 16 years:

  • almost half (49%) had been a victim more than once.
  • fewer than one in six (16%) reported the assault to the police and of those that told someone but not the police, 40% stated embarrassment as a reason, 38% did not think the police could help, and 34% thought it would be humiliating.
  • Victims who did tell the police did so primarily to prevent it happening to others (47%), although, believing it to be the right thing to do (44%) and wanting the perpetrator(s) punished (43%) were similarly common.
  • As victim age increased, so did the number of victims telling the police: just 10% of 16- to 19-year-olds reported the assault to the police, compared with 27% of 35- to 44-year-olds).
  • showed that the majority (69%) of victims told someone about the sexual assault by rape or penetration they had experienced since the age of 16 years. Victims were most likely to tell someone they knew personally (60%)
  • victims were equally as likely to tell someone in an official position (28%) as another support professional or organisation (29%) about the assault experienced.

Age and sex

In the years ending March 2017 and March 2020 combined, the majority of victims who had experienced rape or assault by penetration since they were 16 years old reported that the perpetrator(s) were male (98%). Almost two-thirds (65%) reported that the perpetrator was a male aged between 20 and 39 years.

Victims who experienced sexual assault by rape or penetration since the age of 16 years were most likely to be victimised by their partner or ex-partner (44%). This was closely followed by someone who was known to them other than a partner or family member (37%), which includes friends (12%) and dates (10%)

Where does the offending occur?

The most common location for rape or assault by penetration to occur was in the victim’s home (37%), followed by the perpetrator’s home (26%). The assault had taken place in a park, other open public space, car park or on the street for 9% of victims.

Almost half of victims who reported the perpetrator was a stranger, said the perpetrator was under the influence of alcohol when the sexual assault took place.

Method used by perpetrator

For over half (54%) of victims, physical force had been used by the perpetrator to try to make them have sex with them, with 10% reporting the perpetrator had choked or tried to strangle them. Over one-fifth (22%) of victims reported feeling frightened or that the perpetrator had threatened to hurt them, and in 6% of reported cases, threats to kill the victim were made by the perpetrator.

Over a fifth (21%) of victims were either unconscious or asleep during the most recent incident of sexual assault by rape or penetration.

Injuries

Victims of sexual assault by rape or penetration (including attempts) since the age of 16 years were asked questions on physical injury and other, non-physical effects experienced as a result of the most recent incident of assault.

Nearly two-fifths of victims (36%) reported that they suffered some sort of physical injury. The most common types of injuries were minor bruising or black eye (23%) and scratches (15%)

Victims were presented with a list of other non-physical effects and were asked if they had suffered any of these as a result of the assault. For both men and women, the category most likely to be reported was “mental or emotional problems” (47% of male victims and 63% of female victims). Around one in ten victims (12% of men and 10% of women) said they had attempted suicide as a result.

Conclusions

Behind the numbers and statistics lie real people: victims and survivors each with their own story to tell. That must be an important reminder when trying to understand the figures and attempting to analyse  them, let alone draw conclusions.  Nevertheless, we attempt to do so….

It remains abundantly clear that victims are reluctant to come forward out of misplaced shame. Even in 2021 sexual abuse is still some thing of a taboo subject. There is a greater understanding of the issue but that does not necessarily correlate in to negating the very human feelings of embarrassment etc. Victims do not necessarily know what kind of reception that will receive when the contact the police: “How do I explain to a stranger what happened?”  There have been of course lurid media stories of victims being cross-examined in court and  having their reputations trashed. This only serves to re-enforce perceptions or misconceptions that reporting may have unwelcome consequences.

Much of course has been achieved in helping victims come forward to complain and to be assisted in the criminal justice system, but the report shows there is still much to be done. The MOJ’s The code of practice for victims of crime and supporting public information materials  is an example of the steps that have been taken to support victims in the criminal justice system. Likewise important steps have been taken to assist victims in giving evidence for example through the pre-recording of their testimony.

In previous podcasts we have discussed offending behaviour and changes in societal norms, for example the prevalence of “sexting”; the misuse of intimate pictures, and sex trafficking. Are we seeing these trends appearing in the statistics? One of the interesting figures concerns strangulation – another podcast subject, and we have seen moves to make this a particular offence.

We encourage anyone who has concerns about sexual abuse to get in touch. You can contact Alan Collins or Danielle Vincent.

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