Manitoba

More than 1,300 Manitobans seek help after intimate images shared

A charity that helps people harmed by “revenge porn” and unauthorized distribution of intimate images says more than 1,300 Manitobans have accessed the organization’s online resources in the last year in an effort to deal with the growing problem.

Advocate says sexual images are being shared 'all the time'

In Manitoba victims of "revenge porn" can seek restitution in the courts, while Canada has criminalized the unauthorized distribution of intimate images and video. (Igor Stevanovic/Shutterstock)

A charity that helps people harmed by "revenge porn" and unauthorized distribution of intimate images says more than 1,300 Manitobans have accessed the organization's online resources in the last year in an effort to deal with the growing problem.

The number is from the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (C3P), a Winnipeg-based national charity designated by the Manitoba government to help people of all ages who are affected by non-consensual distribution of intimate images.

"Everyone's being inundated with the issue of the exchange of sexual images," said Signy Arnason, associate executive director at C3P. "It's happening all the time."

It's a very difficult thing for victims to come forward and say to somebody, 'this is what's taken place.'- Signy Arnason, associate executive director at C3P

"We would never advocate it's in your interest to share something of this nature because at the end of the day, you have lost control over what happens to it," she said.

Manitoba passed the Intimate Image Protection Act in 2016 to help stop the non-consensual distribution of sexual imagery and enable victims to sue perpetrators for financial compensation. 

A Brandon woman is suing the person she alleges gave intimate images of her to a prospective employer, in what legal experts say may be one of the first "revenge porn" cases to test the new law. The defendant in the lawsuit denies the allegations.

"I think this is why the law was put in place, so that there was a course of action particularly for adults around how they would how manage a situation," Arnason said.

"Whether we like it or not, technology is completely interwoven into intimate relationships now and this is how people explore things sexually," she said.

"Having this law in place at least provides a trigger either to tell the person, 'delete it, you need to take this seriously' or there may be some legal action taken," said Arnason.
Sexting? Before you hit send, Law professor Karen Busby answers important questions around sharing intimate images and the law. 1:47

When the law took effect, the government made C3P the agency for Manitobans to contact for help.

In addition to the 1,300 people in Manitoba who've used C3P's online resources to seek help on this issue, some 50 people — nearly half of them adults — have sought help directly from staff at the organization since 2016.

Arnason said some people find getting help anonymously from the agency's online resources is easier.

"It's a very difficult thing for victims to come forward and say to somebody, 'this is what's taken place.'" Arnason said. 

"Often they feel humiliation and shame and culpable in what's occurred. So it can be very challenging to overcome those things and seek guidance and support."

C3P offers to help with removal of intimate images from social media or other locations, or having them destroyed. The organization says it can provide information on the civil and criminal options available to people victimized by the problem.

When the Intimate Image Protection Act took effect in January 2016, Manitoba became the first province in Canada to enact such a law.

Since then, other provinces, including Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and Alberta have introduced similar laws, and last week Newfoundland and Labrador announced its intention to do the same.

An amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada made the sharing of intimate images without consent a criminal offence in 2015.

Under section 162.1, the code defines an intimate image as a photo or video depicting a person who is nude, is exposing their genitals, anal region, or breasts, or is engaged in explicit sexual activity.

According to the law, the subject of the image or video must have had a reasonable expectation of privacy. 


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With files from Katie Nicholson