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Project description

Research by Clare McGlynn and Erika Rackley has shaped the creation of new laws on image-based sexual abuse  (also known as ‘Revenge Pornography’).

Primary participants

Professor Clare McGlynn Professor of Law, KC (Hon)

Professor Erika Rackley  Professor of Law, University of kent

Dr Ruth Houghton Research Associate (2016-2017)


About the research

Image-Based Sexual Abuse (also known as 'Revenge Pornography') often involves an abusive and/or ex-partner distributing sexual images without the consent of the person concerned. These intimate images routinely go viral and can be devastating for the victim.

Watch Clare McGlynn give evidence to the Justice Committee in Scotland
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More about the research


England and Wales

Clare McGlynn and Erika Rackley (The University of Kent) advised Members of The House of Lords throughout the drafting of new laws on revenge pornography.

The Criminal Justice and Courts Act received royal assent on the 12th of February 2015. This Act creates a new offence of ‘Disclosing private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress’.

The new law only covers private sexual images and the disclosure must be made without the consent of the person concerned. Distribution of the photo or video has to be with the specific intention to cause distress to the victim for it to fall under the Act.

Clare McGlynn highlighted the limitations of the new law. The Centre for Gender Equal Media (GEM), which Clare co-founded, is seeking to strengthen existing legislation by including pornographic photoshopping within the law and aim to secure support for all victims from specialist services.

Clare McGlynn’s research and advice also shaped Parliamentary amendmentsNGO campaignspublic debate regarding the Voyeurism Act 2019 which introduced the new criminal offence of upskirting in England & Wales. 

Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man 

McGlynn’s research has led to the introduction of a new criminal offence in Northern Island of possession of rape pornography in the Justice Act 2016.

Her advice also directly led to changes in the non-consensual distribution of sexual images in the Isle of Man Sexual Offences Bill. McGlynn’s advice was sought on the draft Sexual Offences Bill and her bespoke briefing directly influenced the drafting of the Bill, which includes a new part entitled ‘Image-based sexual abuse’ and provides for a comprehensive law covering all forms of non-consensual distribution or taking of sexual.


The Scottish Government announced plans to introduce a new criminal law of disclosing an ‘intimate photograph or film’. Its aim is to tackle the problem of so-called ‘revenge porn’ and makes clear that the non-consensual distribution, or threat to disclose, private sexual images is criminal.

McGlynn has provided evidence to the Justice Committee of the Scottish Parliament. She has argued that the misuse of private sexual images is a new way of perpetrating old harms - the harassment and abuse of women.


Anonymity for Complainants of Image-Based Sexual Abuse

The Centre for Gender Equal Media (GEM) has launched a new campaign seeking anonymity for all victim-survivors of image-based sexual abuse.


McGlynn’s research has also assisted Facebook to better understand the harms of image-based sexual abuse and develop better reporting tools and prevention mechanisms.

New terminology

This research also generated new terminology of ‘image-based sexual abuse’ which has been adopted nationally and internationally by government organisations, voluntary organisations, policy-makers, politicians, survivors of abuse, police and regulatory authorities, and in public and media debates.


Further information




  • Durham Law School's Video on Image-Based Sexual Abuse: Clare McGlynn outlines reforms for the law of image-based sexual abuse. Watch the video here.
  • Video on Evidence to The Justice Committee in Scotland: Clare McGlynn gives evidence to the Justice Committee in Scotland. Watch the video here.
  • Video on Strengthening Laws around Image-Based Sexual Abuse: Clare talks about her work with colleagues to strengthen some of the laws around image-based sexual abuse. Watch the video here.

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  • News

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  • Key Publications

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Find out more about this research in the news. 

Close-up of a laptop

Key Publications

Find out more about publications connected to this research.