Gardaí investigate allegations that thousands of sexual images of Irish women and girls shared online without consent

Gardaí investigate allegations that thousands of sexual images of Irish women and girls shared online without consent

AN GARDA Síochána have opened an investigation into allegations that thousands of sexual images of Irish girls and women have been shared online without their consent.

Advocacy group The Victims Alliance say that they are aware of a large number of images of women and girls, some of whom are underage, being shared on online forums including online messaging platform Discord.

Co-founder of the Victims Alliance, Linda Hayden, told The Journal that one Discord server had an estimated 500 users who were sharing explicit images of girls and women without their consent; the website has confirmed to the outlet that the server has been permanently deleted and all those who were involved in the sharing of those images have been banned.

One folder, marked 'minors' and which included sexual images of underage girls has been forwarded to Gardaí, who have confirmed they are opening an investigation, Ms Hayden added.

Any individual who is identified as having uploaded sexual images of a minor could face child sexual abuse charges under the 1998 Child Trafficking and Pornography Act.

However, under current Irish law, the sharing of sexual images of an individual over the age of 18 without the person's consent is not an offence; a petition to change this has so far garnered almost 50,000 signatures.

You can sign the petition here.

The Government is facing calls to criminalise the act of image-based sexual abuse, or 'revenge porn: Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns spoke in the Dáil yesterday where she urged the Minister for Justice to act immediately to protect victims.

Addressing the victims directly, Ms Cairns said "This is not your fault. You didn't do ANYTHING wrong.

"You are not to blame.

Minister for Further & Higher Education, Simon Harris, writing on Twitter, said "If you are a woman whose images have been leaked without your consent, please know no matter what the bullies tell you this isn't your fault.

"Victim blaming is sickening.

"Image based sexual abuse is wrong and despicable. It must stop and any law changes needed must happen urgently."

The fight to criminalise image-based sexual abuse has been ongoing in Ireland for years; in 2017, a female Irish journalist, Dara Quigley who was detained under the Mental Health Act was captured on CCTV walking naked down the street.

The footage of Dara Quigley was recorded by a Garda officer, who shared it on WhatsApp. The video spread to social media and was viewed tens of thousands of times.

Ms Quigley took her own life days later, and the officer involved has not faced any criminal charges.

Anyone affected by this story can reach out to Women's Aid Ireland.