Government facing pressure to criminalise the non-consensual sharing of intimate images
The Government is under pressure to urgently ban image-based abuse after it emerged that hundreds of thousands of intimate images of Irish women were released online without their consent.
A victims support group has said that 140,000 intimate and sexual pictures, including many of Irish women, have been leaked and shared on the internet.
It is understood that some images were leaked from private social media accounts without consent, while others appear to have been taken without the woman’s knowledge. Some of the files also include images of underage girls, which is an offence.
The non-consensual sharing of intimate images is not a criminal offence in Ireland.
Those sharing the images have been “trading” pictures of women, and boasting about having access to pictures of women on a county-by-county basis. The files were first uncovered by the Victim’s Alliance, a lobby group representing victims of crime.
Linda Hayden, the group’s founder, said it first uncovered a server with a file containing 11,000 images that were “mostly of Irish women”.
After searching through more websites and servers, the group said it is now aware of at least 140,000 stolen images of women. In some cases, there are multiple pictures of the same women or duplicates of the same image.
The Irish Independent understands that one server which was hosting the files this week has now been taken down. Ms Hayden said that the Victim’s Alliance has been going through the images, and trying to identify and find the victims involved.
“We are not equipped for this,” Ms Hayden said. “We believe that Irish women were targeted because the perpetrators know there is no law against sharing intimate images without consent. There seems to be a blind spot.”
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald told the Dáil that the “megafiles” of images had been uncovered by the Victim’s Alliance.
“This is a profound violation of women and girls’ rights and demonstrates again the inadequacy of Irish law in protecting them against such abuse,” Ms McDonald said.
She said that 18 months had passed since the former justice minister got Cabinet approval to amend a Labour Party bill that would criminalise the non-consensual sharing of intimate images. Ms McDonald said the “glacial pace” of the law had to be improved by the Government.
Some of the images were taken from women’s private social media accounts. In some cases, images were widely shared without consent from websites like OnlyFans.
Labour TD Duncan Smith criticised the men who thought that sharing such images was “acceptable, laddish behaviour”.
“Nothing could be further from the truth, this has to be refuted by every man in Ireland. It is the action of a degenerate, it is scummy, it is the lowest of the low.”
Helen McEntee, the justice minister, told the Irish Independent abuse in any form “is utterly unacceptable and has no place in Irish society”.
The Women’s Aid helpline is 1800 341 900.