Breaking Taboos: Domestic Violence & ‘Distress Porn.’

Domestic Violence Free Image (Needpix)
Breaking Taboos: Domestic Violence & ‘Distress Porn.’
Shanique Blake explores the issue of ‘Distress Porn,’ the disturbing new social media trend used by domestic abusers.

With the ever so opulent rise of social media, society has reached a point where it now bears witness to an alarming and frankly shocking new form of domestic abuse. ‘Distress porn’ sees abusers film their victim’s breakdown and then threaten to publicise it in the hope of being able to humiliate, degrade, demean, control and hurt a person when they are at their most vulnerable.  
 
There have been cases where abusers use their videos to manipulate the legal system, with claims of mental instability on the part of their victims, leading to devasting consequences such as suicidal thoughts, a breakdown in mental health, attempted suicide, or even suicide due to the victim feeling unable to face or carry on with the ongoing torment provoked by these videos.    

Because of the extensive and widespread use of social media, and the woefully inadequate platforming regulations of some websites and apps, this form of abuse has been able to quickly evolve into a horrendous practice where perpetrators can continue to intimidate their victims.   
 
Comedian John McDade was arrested this year and jailed for four years at the Airdire Sheriff Court, North Lanarkshire over horrific domestic abuse, which included filming his partner on a bathroom floor in a state of extreme distress; most shocking was the fact that he was not even prosecuted for the filming aspect of crime, even though the intent was to deliberately humiliate, degrade and control his victim.  
 
Such cases have led to an outcry from both psychologists and well-established domestic abuse charities including Women’s Aid, and calls for the government to bring in laws to prohibit this mode of domestic abuse. One thing is clear: without action and intervention, the growing popularity of social media cases involving victims of ‘distress porn’ will steadily rise, which could lead to it becoming an even more popular and threatening form of psychological abuse, unless something is done to stop it.

The Fact Files: Domestic Abuse  
Domestic abuse is not limited to physical violence. It can include repeated patterns of abusive verbal and psychologically controlling behaviour to maintain power in a relationship.

  • In the year ending March 2018, an estimated 2.0 million adults aged 16 to 59 years experienced domestic abuse in the last year (1.3 million women, and 695,000 men).
  • The police recorded 599,549 domestic abuse-related crimes in the year ending March 2018. This was an increase of 23% from the previous year.  
  • The police made 225,714 arrests for domestic abuse-related offences (in the 39 police forces that could supply adequate data). This equates to 38 arrests per 100 domestic abuse-related crimes recorded.
  • The percentage of convictions secured for domestic abuse-related prosecutions is at its highest level since the year ending March 2010.  
  • In the year ending March 2018, 76% of prosecutions resulted in a conviction.

Have you been affected by domestic abuse, or do you know someone who needs support? Below
you will find useful contacts to help you.

Helplines 

The Police
Call the UK police non-emergency number, 101, if you need support or advice from the police and it is not an emergency. If you are in immediate danger call 999.  
 
Women’s Aid Domestic Violence Helpline
0808 2000 247
Free 24-hour national helpline run by Women’s Aid and Refuge.
 
Men’s Advice Line
0808 801 0327
Confidential helpline for male victims of domestic violence and abuse.
 
National LGBT Domestic Abuse Helpline
0800 999 5428
Emotional and practical support for LGBT+ people experiencing domestic abuse
 
National Centre for Domestic Violence
0800 970 2070