Sexual Abuse and Technology – Are You Safe?

April 15, 2020
Danielle Vincent - Solicitor in the abuse team

Posted by: Danielle Vincent


Technology is ever evolving and our legal system has struggled to keep up.

Over recent years, the difficultly of younger and younger children having mobile phones and sharing images of themselves has become apparent, with such images being sent around in the school playground and uploaded on to the internet.  With the click of a send button the images are released from their control for anyone to see.

The NSPCC have recently advised the popular soap Coronation Street in respect of this, as they are about to have this scenario play out over our screens this spring, to warn of the dangers of a teenager sharing images with her boyfriend, only for them to end up online.

Many victims are blackmailed to continue to do things they would not consent to, to avoid such images being sent to their family, friends; the list goes on.

However, this is not a problem that only affects children.  Revenge porn has hit the headlines over recent years, with a number of high profile celebrities being victims of the same and sharing their stories.  Zara McDermott who has featured in Love Island and Made In Chelsea is also releasing a documentary this summer for the BBC, discussing the impact revenge porn has had on her.

Across England, Wales and Scotland, revenge porn is a specific criminal offence.  It’s described as “the sharing of private, sexual materials, either photos or videos, of another person without their consent and with the purpose of causing embarrassment or distress”.  The offence covers photos or videos showing people engaged in sexual activity which would not usually be done in public or with their genitals, buttocks or breasts exposed or covered only with underwear.  It includes sharing the material as well as posting it online.  In England and Wales, the maximum punishment is two years in prison, in Scotland, it is five years.

Whilst more and more is being done to raise awareness that these offences should be reported in the public domain, the risks are forever evolving from new technology.

Stacey Dooley Investigates Spy Cam Sex Criminals was released on BBC iPlayer on 1st April.  In this documentary she investigates “Molka” the name given for hidden cameras in South Korea which films victims without their consent.  There seems to be even more concern as technology evolves, cameras now being a huge threat to our privacy.

The spy camera proliferation has thrived here since 2010.  Since then reports of such crimes have gone up 600%.  Filming takes place everywhere you can imagine, including up skirting, toilets, hotel bedrooms, shower heads, hospital clinician rooms and changing rooms.

These images are then placed online and downloaded thousands of times.  Pornography is banned in South Korea and therefore these images are published on to the dark web.

With technology evolving, these cameras can now be made so small they are no longer noticeable to the human eye, they have the ability to live stream and are even waterproof.  For as little as £25 these devices can be purchased over the internet without question.

At the time the documentary was filmed it was reported there were over 2000 websites showing Molka.  This has resulted in the suicide of some victims.  Molka was also used by a crime ring to make profits off unknowing victims and also resulted in violent sexual attacks.

During the documentary one perpetrator took over 8000 images in one year for which he could not understand the issue as they were for his own personal use.

In order to tackle this and reduce the number of crimes, organisations now sweep public toilets to prevent these cameras being installed and have placed plastic screens at the bottom of toilet doors.  The crime is punishable with up to 10 years in prison in South Korea.

It is concerning that this Molka may soon spread to the wider world and indeed the UK.

In fact last year, ITV showed the drama “Liar” where the storyline follows a women who is drugged and raped whilst filmed on a camera, the images were later found by the victim along with many other women.

If you have been a victim of any of the above:-

  • Obtain / keep evidence of the images
  • Report this to the police
  • Report this to the website showing the images and request the same are removed
  • Request google remove the search link to the material
  • Tell friends/family who can support you
  • If you need further advice on how to get explicit online material removed, Victim Support offer guidance contact the Revenge Porn Helpline on 0845 6000 459
  • Seek legal advice

Further advice on revenge porn can be found on our link Revenge porn campaign.

Danielle Vincent is a senior solicitor in the Abuse team at Bolt Burdon Kemp.  If you feel you may have a claim or are enquiring on behalf of a loved one, contact Danielle free of charge and in confidence on 020 7288 4870 or at daniellevincent@boltburdonkemp.co.uk.  Alternatively, complete this form and one of the solicitors in the Abuse team will contact you.  Find out more about the Abuse Team.

Posted by: Danielle Vincent

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