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Revenge porn hotline has received a record 2,050 reports so far this year

A helpline set up to help victims of so-called revenge porn has dealt with more cases so far this year than the whole of 2019. 

A record 2,050 reports had been made to the Government funded service as of Monday. 

This represents a 22 per cent rise on the 1,685 reports over 2019 – its busiest ever year. 

The helpline set up to help victims of so-called revenge porn has dealt with more cases so far this year than the whole of 2019

The helpline set up to help victims of so-called revenge porn has dealt with more cases so far this year than the whole of 2019

Bosses believe the rise is evidence of a long-term behaviour triggered by the lockdown amid fears of a ‘new normal’. 

The helpline, run by the charity SWGfL, part of the UK Safer Internet Centre, saw cases almost double in April compared to the same month the previous year – from 122 to 242. 

Advisers thought the spike may settle, but despite lockdown easing, cases have remained high through to August. 

Over that period 1,387 reports were made, the equivalent of nine every day   

Last month, the helpline dealt with 285 cases, a 63 per cent increase on the 175 dealt with in August 2019. 

Revenge porn – the sharing of sexual images or videos of a person without their consent – became an offence in England and Wales in April 2015. 

Around two thirds of cases reported to the helpline, which was set up in 2015, involve women. It has helped remove 22,515 images this year – 94 per cent of the 23,913 reported. 

Its experts predict the UK total could rise to 2,700 reports by the end of the year – 60 per cent higher than the 2019 total. 

Helpline manager Sophie Mortimer believes the sustained rise is evidence of a long-term behaviour triggered by the lockdown, amid greater awareness of the crime and support for victims.   

She said: ‘It’s interesting it hasn’t dropped and for me, that really does confirm we were only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

‘I think it did show that there’s a lot more going on behind closed doors, and the tighter those doors are closed, the more intense some of that behaviour has become, and maybe brought things to a head that otherwise would have taken a lot longer or might have taken a different shape.’

Sextortion cases have also risen since lockdown, and now make up almost a fifth (18%) of the total cases dealt with by the helpline.

Before the lockdown, they accounted for 13% of the total.

While around three quarters of the 363 sextortion cases involved male victims this year, the figures suggest a greater number of women are being exploited.

In March and July, 30% of the sextortion cases flagged to the helpline involved women.

David Wright, director of the UK Safer Internet Centre, said: ‘The lockdown produced an extreme set of circumstances which are bringing a lot of problems.

‘What we are seeing here, however, suggests something more long-term has happened which could mean we will be busier than ever before.

‘It’s worrying to think this could be the new normal.’

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