Image-based sexual abuse is a criminal offence. It’s when someone takes, shares, or threatens to share sexually explicit images or videos of a person without their knowledge or consent, and with the aim of causing them distress or harm. This can include digitally altered images, also known as ‘deepfakes’.

Materials can be shared both online and offline. It includes uploading images to the internet and social media channels, sharing by text and email, and showing someone a physical or digital image or video.

Image-based sexual abuse is a broad term, which covers many different abusive behaviours involving ‘nude’ or sexual images. You may have also heard it called ‘revenge porn’, sextortion or intimate image abuse.

Anyone can be affected by image-based sexual abuse, but the perpetrator can often be an ex-partner or person known to you. In sextortion cases, perpetrators are often part of organised criminal gangs, which may be operating from outside of the UK.

‘Revenge porn’

Also called intimate image abuse or non-consensual pornography. This is when someone shares – or threatens to share – intimate images or videos of you without your consent. They may do this online or via social media, such as subscription websites or porn sites. Or share/threaten to share them with your friends, family members or other people you know.

Perpetrators use ‘revenge porn’/intimate image abuse to harm, shame and extort their victims. (Extort means to gain something by force, threats or other unfair means.) They may also do this to control or coerce someone. Eg to stop someone from leaving a relationship where they’re being abused.


Also called sexually coercive exploitation, sexual extortion or webcam blackmail. Sextortion involves the threat of sharing images or videos – often ‘nudes’ or sexually explicit content – to extort money or force someone to do something against their will.

Perpetrators may use fake identities to befriend victims online. They’ll trick, coerce or threaten a victim to send intimate videos or images. Or they may record sexual content without their consent or knowledge during an online sexual exchange via webcam or the camera on a device. They then use the material to blackmail the person, usually demanding further sexual content or money. They also often threaten to share the content online or with the victim’s family, friends or others.


Deepfakes are digitally altered images, videos or audio. A perpetrator may use AI (artificial intelligence) technology to create or transform an image of someone into a sexually explicit image or video. You may have also heard this called synthetic sexual content, deepfake porn, fake porn or morphing.

A perpetrator can make someone appear as if they’re saying or doing something that they’re not. Eg they can use an image of one person’s face and insert it into a video of another (often pornography or footage of a sexual act). Other forms of technology, sometimes called ‘deepnudes’, allows a perpetrator to upload an image of a clothed victim and the app or software ‘strips’ someone of their clothing, creating a fake ‘nude’ image of the victim.

Threats to share

The fear of your images being shared, or not knowing whether a perpetrator has material of you, can be deeply upsetting, stressful and worrying. Threats to share your images or videos without your consent can be used to control or intimidate you, especially if you’re experiencing domestic abuse or coercive or controlling behaviour from a partner, friend or family member.

Threatening to share your intimate image without your consent is an offence, whether or not the image exists, and the perpetrator could face a prison sentence.


This is a form of indecent exposure that happens online or by text message. It’s when someone sends you an unwanted image or video of their genitals (or of someone else’s). You may have heard this called a ‘dick pic’. Perpetrators may be someone you know or a stranger. They may do this by email, text message or WhatsApp, over social media, on a dating app or website, or during a video call. Perpetrators may also use an app or feature such as AirDrop to send someone – including strangers – an unwanted image or video.


When someone takes a photograph underneath your clothing without your permission. This is often done to view your genitals or buttocks, with or without underwear, for sexual gratification (sexual arousal or pleasure) and/or to cause you fear, alarm or humiliation. Upskirting is violating and intrusive, and may make you feel vulnerable and distressed. Perpetrators often do it in a busy or crowded public space, as it can be harder to spot. Upskirting became an offence in England and Wales in 2019 under The Voyeurism (Offences) Act.

Downblousing, where an image is taken down someone’s top without their consent, has been targeted in new guidance from the CPS.

Experiencing any sort of image-based sexual abuse can be extremely distressing, and is often similar to other forms of sexual violence.

You may:

  • experience interruptions to your sleep and thought processes.
  • feel stressed, experience low mood, low self-esteem or anxiety.
  • experience feelings of guilt, shame, embarrassment, self-blame or humiliation.
  • feel unsafe, as you may be unsure who has seen the images of you.
  • be fearful the images may be shared somewhere else in the future, causing you further harm and distress in the future.
  • adopt unhealthy coping strategies such as substance misuse or self-harm.
  • experience depression, or suicidal thoughts or attempts.

Image-based sexual abuse is a violation of your privacy and you might feel too ashamed or embarrassed to report the crime to the police.

It’s important to remember you’re not to blame – only the offender is responsible for this crime taking place.

If someone has posted sexual images or videos of you online, you can report the perpetrator to the websites/social media platforms and ask them to remove the content. The website Report Harmful Content lists the most commonly used social media sites and how to contact them.

If you’ve been a victim of crime, you’ll need to decide whether or not to tell the police. If you’re unsure, we have more information about reporting a crime and what happens afterwards.

Remember, we can support you whether you decide to involve the police or not.

If you choose to report your experience, you can do this in several ways:

  • If it’s an emergency, call 999 and ask for the police.
  • If it’s not an emergency, you can report to the police by calling 101. You can also go to your local police station to report the crime there.
  • If you want to report the crime anonymously you can call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or report online.
  • If you’re under 18, you can also report image-based sexual abuse to the police on the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) website.

If someone has posted explicit images of you online, report the incident to the website where the images were posted and ask for them to be removed.

If you need further advice on how to get online material removed, you can contact the Revenge Porn Helpline on 0345 6000 459.

If you decide to report the crime to the police, try to keep evidence of the incident by taking a record and screenshots of any posts or messages.

Once someone has sexually explicit images or videos of you, it’s hard to control how they use them. Here are some tips to help you stay safe online:

  • Even if you’re in a relationship, think carefully before you share any sexual images with anyone, regardless of whether this is online, in person or via text message.
  • Check your privacy settings on social media regularly to keep them up to date.
  • Don’t share personal information or contact details online.
  • Turn your webcam off when you’re not using it.

When you report a crime to the police, they should automatically ask if you’d like help from an organisation like Victim Support. But anyone affected by crime can contact us directly – you don’t need to talk to the police to get our help.

You can get in touch by:

You can also create a free account on My Support Space – an online resource containing interactive guides to help you manage the impact crime has had on you.

If English is not your first language and you’d like support, call our Supportline and let us know which language you speak. We’ll call you back with an interpreter as soon as possible. We also welcome calls via Relay UK and SignLive (BSL).

Families and friends affected by crime can also contact us for support and information. If you’re a child or young person under 18 and are looking for support, visit our children and young people website for information and tips.

Further support and information: