As the coronavirus forces European countries to go on lockdown, cases of revenge porn and digital sex abuse are rising across the continent. Revenge porn typically refers to the act of posting sexual or nude photos of a victim online to embarrass or blackmail that individual.

“During lockdown and as the world moves online ... women and girls are exposed to higher risks,” Johanna Nelles, the executive secretary of the Istanbul Convention, told Reuters. The Istanbul Convention is a treaty ratified by the Council of Europe intended to prevent and combat violence against women.

“Domestic violence is on the rise and many perpetrators also use new technologies to assert their power over their victim,” Nelles said.

The U.K. Revenge Porn Helpline, a state-funded initiative, opened a record 250 some cases in April. The service provides legal advice and emotional support to victims of the act.

England and Wales made it a crime in 2015 to share intimate photos online without consent, with a maximum sentence of two years in prison for perpetrators. Similar laws were later passed in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Revenge porn is also criminalized in other European countries. In Italy, the act became a criminal offense in 2019, with perpetrators facing up to six years in prison or fines of up to 15,000 euros ($16,212). In 2016, France passed a “Digital Republic Law” giving perpetrators a two-year prison sentence or a fine of 60,000 euros ($64,849).

In April, French student Shanley Clemot Maclaren started a campaign to help victims of revenge porn. She has worked with a lawyer and 20 friends to shut down 200 social media accounts engaging in the criminal act.

The lockdown policies could also cause a spike in other crimes towards women, with the United Nations warning in April that six months of stay-at-home measures could cause as many as 31 million cases or more of domestic violence.

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