Stronger measures by the Saskatchewan government to address the sharing of intimate images without consent is an encouraging step, but loopholes remain in the legislation, according to provincial and national advocates.
On Monday, the provincial government introduced legislation that gives people more power to stop so-called “revenge pornography.” The law gives the courts the power to order a person to return photos or videos to them and to ensure that they are not shared by others.
It also broadens the definition of intimate images to include digitally manipulated copies as well as the original material.
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“We see a clearer path for (people) to access justice,” said Ashley Kilback, communications specialist with Sexual Assault Services of Saskatchewan.
Kilback noted, however, that the new measures do not ease the burden of reporting, hiring an attorney, filing a civil lawsuit, and navigating the court system. Many targets of this crime lack the money to take a civil case to court.
Survivors are usually tasked with telling a person to stop sharing images or videos and to delete them. A person might also have to approach powerful social media platforms or websites.
“It returns the responsibility to the survivor having to undo his victimization,” Kilback said.
“Many times, the judicial process and what the survivor has to do to seek justice is traumatizing in itself.”
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A possible solution to some of the loopholes in Saskatchewan’s legislation could be modeled on what happened in Nova Scotia with an organization called CyberScan, Kilback said.
Staff work with people affected by the non-consensual sharing of intimate images and act on their behalf.
“Your team will work with the survivor to contact the abuser themselves and then help them remove the images themselves,” Kilback said.
Saskatchewan’s amendments introduced Monday include “additional resources to encourage intermediaries to remove such images from the Internet,” Saskatchewan Justice Minister Gordon Wyant told the media on Monday.
The legislation also allows individuals to take legal action against anyone who threatens to distribute their intimate photos or videos.
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However, the measures do not target people who simply refuse to remove intimate content, according to Monique St. Germain, general counsel for the Canadian Center for Child Protection.
“They are not threatening to distribute it, it is more of a coercive control tactic that is happening,” St. Germain said in an interview.
Another problem is that survivors often don’t know who shares their images, which means they don’t know who to pursue in court.
There is also a concern that if legal action becomes the norm, website and social media administrators will not remove the content without a court order.
“At the moment, what we’re dealing with is a little free online for everyone,” St. Germain said.
If you need help dealing with the distribution of non-consensual intimate images or other forms of sexual abuse, Sexual Assault Services of Saskatchewan has ten member agencies that provide help throughout the province. Resources are available at https://sassk.ca/resources/.
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