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Victim of leaked intimate images left 'powerless and violated'

Cabinet has approved new legislation to criminalise the sharing of intimate images without consen...
Marita Moloney
Marita Moloney

15.15 24 Nov 2020


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Victim of leaked intimate imag...

Victim of leaked intimate images left 'powerless and violated'

Marita Moloney
Marita Moloney

15.15 24 Nov 2020


Share this article


Cabinet has approved new legislation to criminalise the sharing of intimate images without consent.

Under the new laws, someone may be jailed for up to seven years if they have published abusive material with the intent of causing harm.

Someone found to be forwarding the material on after receiving it could be jailed for up to 12 months or be fined up to €5,000.

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It comes after thousands of pictures of women and girls were leaked online last week.

The offence will also apply even if there was initial permission to take the photo, but it was then shared without that person's consent.

Last week, Justice Minister Helen McEntee said she shared the “upset and anger” people around the country are feeling about the images shared online.

Speaking after successfully seeking Cabinet approval today, Minister McEntee said it is her "hope that the bill will be approved by the Dáil and the Seanad before the end of the year".

'Violated and powerless'

Eboni Bourke who had private images shared without her consent in the past, said it is important that people are aware of the impact it can have.

Speaking on Lunchtime Live said that it was an "absolutely terrifying experience" and she still doesn't know who was behind the leak.

She said she found out after someone she knew texted her to say they had received the images.

Eboni said: "I felt violated because I didn't know who was behind it and I didn't know how to even go about solving it.

"That's the harsh reality for the thousands of women who were involved in this leak.

"At the time I felt violated, I felt so powerless and I didn't know where to go, what to do or who to tell.

"I was very worried to tell people because of the stigma surrounding even taking personal images and having them shared, somehow it backfires on the victim.

"That's why when I found out about the massive leak I felt angry, that it happened to more than me."

New legislation

Eboni was not among those included in the leak of images last week and said that when her photos were shared without her consent, there was a very limited pool of legal options available to her.

She said: "I figured I would just leave it at the time, I felt too powerless, too demoralised to do anything further."

She has since contacted Gardaí about her compliant but says they are limited in the action they can take.

Victim of leaked intimate images left 'powerless and violated'

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With regard to the new legislation approved today, Eboni warned that caution should be exercised by regulators to ensure the bill is "all-encompassing" so that everyone is protected.

She added that she would like to see the term "intimate images" made more specific to include sexual images, while she would also prefer to see more gender-neutral language.

Eboni said: "Obviously we want to see this passed as soon as possible, but we also want to see it done right and we want to make sure that people are safeguarded for the future.

She believes that last week's leak has raised awareness of image-based sexual abuse and opened up the conversation among people about what consent really means.

She said: "I think if there's one silver lining that has come of such a vile incident, it's that the conversations have really been opened.

"If you had asked me even a week ago what image-based sexual abuse meant I wouldn't know what you were talking about.

"People now are getting informed and having those conversations and it's a really positive thing to see."

Main image: Undated photo of a man looking at a mobile phone. Image: PA/PA Archive/PA Images

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