By Shannon Lennox
Cyber-flashing- the disturbing trend of sending unsolicited, explicit images to strangers.
Not only are instances of cyber-flashing increasing, new research uncovers that a large number of cyber-flashing cases are going unreported.
A massive 88% of cyber-flashing cases are made by women. Reports of cyber-flashing to British Transport Police (BTP) have almost doubled in a year, although campaigners say the number of women affected “will almost certainly be much higher”.
Police believe this is due to victims thinking that the incident is “not serious enough”. This is not only inaccurate but a deep misunderstanding of the reality victims are faced with.
Siobhan Mcinness, a student from Edinburgh, shared her experience: “I reported it to members of staff. They laughed and told me I was lucky. They could not understand at all why I was upset. They just told me to delete it and ignore it. It was dehumanising. I felt unsafe.”
Contrary to Police opinion, women are understanding the seriousness of the situation. They are met with a lack of understanding and support, ultimately discouraging them from making an official report. Additionally, Airdrop is often used to send the explicit images. This means that the number of people receiving them are not able to be accurately counted.
Susie Homan, director of planning, engineering and operations for the Rail Delivery Group, said it was working with BTP to further improve safety and “tackle all forms of unwanted sexual behaviour”.
Public transport is not the only vice used to target victims. Shopping centres, cafes and cinemas are used to send out explicit images. Amy, a student from Glasgow was even targeted walking home from class: “I was walking to the train after uni and it was already pretty dark. I received the image through Airdrop. I was alone and didn’t have anyone to help.”
Laws around image-based sexual abuse are being reviewed by the Government as part of a potential overhaul looking to bring cyber-flashing and other digital trends in line with other sexual offences.
The Law Commission will examine existing legislation to ensure it is keeping pace with advancements in technology, but is not due to report back until 2021.
Given the large increase in cases, 2021 is not soon enough. Many more women are likely to be targeted unless official legislation comes in to force sooner.