Unless you have lived under a rock in recent times its likely that you have hear the words consent and IBSA (image based sexual assault) use A LOT.
There’s a paradox with language and particularly ‘buzz words’ wherein they need to be said to normalise them, what they mean and open conversations on the topics, however, the more they are used in some instances the less they become t mean. They become just words we hear rather than depicting situations its important we understand. This article is going to break it down a bit and explain why it is important we keep up discussions on these topics and explore how they intersect.
Let’s start with Consent!
What is consent? And why is it so darn important?
By definition consent is “permission or agreement” (Cambridge, 2020). This means that one person gives someone their permission to do something involving them or agrees to take part in something.
We hear consent mostly talked about these days is in relation to GDPR (general data protection regulations) and sexual activity.
Let’s focus on the latter. There’s several acronyms used to simply explain consent, we like the active consent’s OMFG! Which means consent is, Ongoing, Mutual, and Freely Given. Quite simply, ongoing means, just because consent is given for one thing doesn’t mean its automatically given for others. You can happily consent to kiss someone but that doesn’t mean you automatically consent to do the dance of no pants (SEX) with them, or anything in between. Mutual means, unlike the song, its not “…All about YOU baby”, check in with the other person as you go, “is this ok?” “do you like this?” and so on. You can make it sexy, dirty, flirty, whatever! Freely given meant not only does the person give consent they have to have the capacity to give consent. So a passed out drunk person CAN NOT Consent!
So, just how does ‘consent’ link to Image based sexual assault (IBSA)?
You’ve heard this term a lot in recent times. A server containing thousands of images was breached and resulted in thousands of pictures and videos being ‘leaked’. These were then widely shared on social media platforms. Shared without the permission of the people in the pictures. That is what image based sexual assault is. The taking or distribution of still images or, videos, without the consent of the person. This is why it’s been in the media so much.
This can be EXTREMELY distressing for the person involved. Some images like these are being used to blackmail or try blackmail a person. Let’s be very clear it does not matter if someone’s image was captured willingly or without their consent, if it is shared without consent that’s Image based sexual assault. It is a digital age where everything’s done on social media so if a person / couple are of legal age and choose to send images between themselves that’s their choice and right to do so. IT DOES NOT validate or excuse the sharing of these images thereafter.
If you enjoy sending pictures with your partner, or whomever else you choose, there are some additional steps you can take to keep yourself safer while doing so.
Omit or cover your face firstly, there’s apps you can get free that airbrush out any identifying marks such as tattoos, birthmarks, piercings etc. and you can also get apps that mean you can watermark your pictures with the name of the person you are sending them to. These might seem over cautious reading this, but they are practical steps you can take to keep yourself safe should these images end up being shared.
Furthermore, since the enactment of The Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017 (Coco’s law) it is now an offense to share these images.
When you are sexting the pictures are for you and your eyes only therefore you do not have permission to share them with anyone else.
Finally, if you or someone you know has their image shared without consent here is some practical advice to support them and below you will find useful supports you can contact without fear of being shamed.
Should you receive any of these images through social media chats or groups you should delete these images, report and NEVER forward to ANYONE.
A good way to support people is to remember SENSE:
Supportive – Ask them how they want to be supported. Share information on professional supports available. Reassure them they can trust you and that it will be ok.
Empathy – Your intimate picture has been shared across the internet and social media. How do you feel? Now you have an idea how they feel.
Non-Judgmental – Do not judge them for being caught up in this, they did not choose to be.
Speak – Keep engaging with them. Don’t let them cut themselves off and try to cope alone. No lives should be lost because of this.
Encourage – them to speak to any of the support services listed below.
- TU Dublin Counselling Service
- Women’s Aid
- Safe Ireland
- Dublin Rape Crisis Centre
- The Samaritans