The Saskatchewan government’s tougher measures to address non-consensual intimate image sharing is an encouraging step, but gaps remain in the legislation, according to provincial and national advocates.
On Monday, the provincial government introduced legislation giving people more power to stop so-called “revenge porn.” The act gives courts the power to order a person to return pictures or videos to a person and ensure they aren’t being shared by others.
It also broadens the definition of intimate images to include digitally-doctored copies, as well as the original material.
“We’re seeing more of a clear path for (people) to access justice,” said Ashley Kilback, communications specialist with Sexual Assault Services of Saskatchewan.
Kilback noted, however, that the new measures don’t ease the burden of reporting, hiring a lawyer, filing a civil suit and navigating the court system. Many targets of this crime lack the money required to take a civil case to court.
Survivors are usually tasked with telling a person to stop sharing pictures or videos and to delete them. A person might also have to approach powerful social media platforms or websites.
“It puts the onus back on the survivor to have to undo their victimization,” Kilback said.
“A lot of times, the court process and what the survivor has to go for to actually seek justice is traumatizing itself.”
A possible solution to some of the gaps in Saskatchewan’s legislation could be modelled after what has occurred in Nova Scotia with an organization called CyberScan, Kilback said.
Staff work with people affected by non-consensual sharing of intimate images and act on their behalf.
“Their team will work with the survivor to actually contact the abuser themselves and then help them with removing the images themselves,” Kilback said.
Saskatchewan’s amendments introduced Monday include “additional remedies to encourage intermediaries to remove those kinds of images from the internet,” Saskatchewan Justice Minister Gordon Wyant told media Monday.
The legislation also allows people to pursue legal action against anyone who threatens to distribute their intimate pictures or videos.
However, the measures don’t address people who simply refuse to delete intimate content, according to Monique St. Germain, general counsel for the Canadian Centre for Child Protection.
“They’re not threatening that they’re going to distribute it, it’s just more of a tactic of coercive control that is happening,” St. Germain said in an interview.
Another issue is that survivors often don’t know who is sharing their images, meaning they don’t know who to pursue in court.
There is also concern that if legal action becomes the norm, then social media and website administrators won’t remove content without a court order.
“At the moment, what we’re dealing with is a bit of a free-for-all online,” St. Germain said.
If you need support dealing with non-consensual intimate image distribution or another form of sexual abuse, Sexual Assault Services of Saskatchewan has ten member agencies providing help across the province. Resources are available at https://sassk.ca/resources/.