Written evidence submitted by Professor Clare McGlynn,

Durham Law School, Durham University (VAW0007)


[Note: This evidence has been redacted by the Committee. “***” represents redacted text. Text in square brackets has been inserted where text has been redacted.] 


Prof McGlynn’s particular contribution to this inquiry relates to her research & policy work on[i]:

  1.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Online abuse: how advancing technology is changing how and why abuse is perpetrated and that there is no separation in experience between online and offline abuse.
  2.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Cyberflashing: why urgent action needed to recognise the harms and prevalence of this abuse and how we must reform the criminal law to prevent and challenge it;
  3.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Intimate image abuse: how and why this abuse is increasing, how technology is changing the behaviours and motivations of perpetrators, its potentially devastating harms and how the criminal law is failing victims and urgent comprehensive law reform needed;
  4.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Sexually violent pornography on mainstream porn sites: new research revealing how common this is, its impact normalising sexual violence and how we need to hold porn companies to account.
  5.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Few prosecutions relating to extreme pornography: how despite strong legislation, there are few prosecutions for extreme pornography and most relate to bestiality images.
  6.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Abuse of trust in Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill: how proposals on abuse of power and sports coaches are too restrictive and how we can better ‘future-proof’ the law.


1.               Online Abuse: how and why technology is changing violence against women and girls


Online abuse impacts on every aspect of women’s lives both offline and online:

Online activities are integral to our daily lives online and offline:

Online abuse silences victims and locks them out of citizenship

Technology is changing the nature of impacts of online abuse due to constancy and permanency of internet:

Technology changing why abuse is perpetrated:

Technology is changing how the abuse is perpetrated:

Online abuse against women and girls is growing and pervasive:

Younger women and black and minoritised women particularly affected:

Significant and life-threatening nature of online harms, often causing ‘social rupture’:

Action required


2. Cyberflashing (sending unsolicited penis images)


Evidence base:

This evidence draws on my recently published book Cyberflashing: recognising harms, reforming laws (2021) with Dr Kelly Johnson which is the most comprehensive study of cyberflashing internationally to date. It details the nature and extent of cyberflashing, as well as providing detailed recommendations for law reform. A summary of the research findings and recommendations is available here: cyberflashing-policy-briefing-final.pdf (

How common is cyberflashing?

Different types of cyberflashing

Multiple, Over-Lapping Motivations for Cyberflashing

Potentially Significant Harms of Cyberflashing

The law is currently failing victim-survivors of cyberflashing in England and Wales

Cyberflashing Key Recommendations

Reforming the criminal law:

Beyond creating a cyberflashing offence:


3.               Image-based sexual abuse (taking & sharing intimate images without consent)


Evidence base for submission

This evidence draws on my extensive empirical and legal research conducted with colleagues across the UK, Australia and New Zealand, including:

What is intimate image abuse?

How common is image-based sexual abuse?

Commonplace, life-threatening nature of threats to share without consent

Deep fakes and fakeporn is a growing and harmful problem

Multiple motivations for offending

Potentially significant harms of image-based sexual abuse

Interconnected experiences of image-based sexual abuse

Failing criminal justice responses to image-based sexual abuse

Current outdated, confusing, piecemeal law in England and Wales

Supporting victim-survivors and image-based sexual abuse prevention urgently required

Image-based Sexual Abuse Key Recommendations

Comprehensive criminal law reform urgently required

Introduce new statutory civil offence and civil orders

        prohibiting the offender from distributing the intimate image.

        Requiring offender to delete any images.

        requiring the offender to take down or disable access to an intimate image

        requiring the provider and/or end user of a social media service, relevant electronic service or designated internet service to remove an intimate image from the service

        requiring a hosting service provider who hosts an intimate image to cease hosting the image.

Support victim-survivors to reclaim control

Effective and resourced training, education and guidance



4.               Sexually Violent Content on Mainstream Pornography Websites


Evidence base - new 2021 research

Key findings

Impacts of sexually violent porn on mainstream porn sites

Action required to hold pornography companies to account

Our research provides strong evidence that pornography platforms are not taking appropriate action to protect users from seeing harmful, and possibly unlawful, material.

The fact that such sexually violent content is so readily available – and in contravention of their own Terms and Conditions - is a stark failure in the duty of care of porn companies towards their users.

The Online Harms Bill must ensure that pornography companies are held to account:


5. What about the extreme pornography laws?


What needs to be done?


6. Abuse of trust sexual offences: Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill


Need to Strengthen Provisions on Abuse of Trust and Sports Coaches

Strengthen law to cover all exploitative sexual activity:

Future-proof the law:

Canadian law provides a suitable model to be followed:

Section 153(1) of the Canadian Criminal Code provides that:




[i]               This submission draws on research co-authored with a number of colleagues particularly Professor Erika Rackley (University of Kent) on image-based sexual abuse, Dr Kelly Johnson (Durham University) on cyberflashing, Dr Hannah Bows (Durham University) on extreme pornography and Dr Fiona -Vera-Gray (Durham University) on sexually violent pornography. Some of the empirical evidence on image-based sexual abuse is drawn from an Australian Research Council funded research project conducted with colleagues across the UK, New Zealand and Australia led by Associate Professor Nicola Henry (RMIT University).


May 2021