Intimate Image Abuse (IIA) frequently asked questions
These Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) provide an overview of key issues and terminology relating to non-consensual sharing of intimate images also referred to as intimate image abuse (IIA).
Please note: The contents of the FAQs are for general information and guidance purposes only and do not constitute legal advice, are not intended to be a substitute for legal advice and should not be relied upon as such.
What is the law around sharing intimate images without consent?
- The first offence deals with the distribution or publication, or threat to distribute or publish intimate images without consent, and with the intent to cause harm to the victim. It carries a maximum penalty of an unlimited fine and/or seven years' imprisonment.
- The second offence deals with the taking, distribution or publication of intimate images without consent even if there is no specific intent to cause harm to the victim. It carries a maximum penalty of €5,000 fine and/or 12 months' imprisonment.
Does the law apply to minors?
The age of criminal responsibility in Ireland is 12 as per the Children Act 2001 (with an exception for very serious crimes). This means that the offences under the Harassment Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act 2020 apply to children 12 years old and over.
The Act includes a provision as safeguard for minors under 17, namely that the Director of Public Prosecutions must consent to a prosecution being taken against a child under the age of 17.
What is meant by "consent"?
In general terms "consent" is when a person agrees or gives unambiguous permission to another person to do something. Consent should be expressed freely, voluntary and informed. In any given situation there should be room for the person consenting to say no and/or to change their mind.
The word "consent" will be given its ordinary meaning by a court. It will be a requirement to prove "non-consent" as an element of the offence if a prosecution is taken.
What is an intimate image or video?
The Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act 2020, defines an "intimate image" in relation to a person, as any visual representation, made by any means including any photographic, film, video or digital representation:
- of what is, or purports to be the person's genitals, buttocks or anal region and, in the case of a female, her breasts,
- of the underwear covering the person's genitals, buttocks or anal region and, in the case of a female, her breasts,
- in which the person is nude, or
- in which the person is engaged in sexual activity.
Examples of intimate image or video shared without consent include:
- A person, for example, an ex-partner shares an intimate image of you on social media without your consent;
- A person digitally alters (Photoshops) an image of you with an explicit image and shares it without your consent;
- A person posting your intimate image on an adult "porn" website without your consent.
Is 'upskirting' or 'downblousing' covered with under the legislation?
Yes, recording an intimate image without consent is an offence under section 3 of the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act 2020.
Why do people share intimate images without consent and why is it considered abuse?
People who share images without consent do so for many reasons.
- Some may be upset with the victim (i.e. following a relationship break up) or wanting to humiliate, intimidate, control, coerce them. Others may do so for sexual gratification, to build social status or for monetary gain.
- Intimate image abuse can also be part of a pattern of controlling and abusive behaviour in a domestic, family violence situation. In this case, the perpetrator deliberately tries to create fear, and/or shame.
- Others could use intimate images to blackmail people for monetary gain (also commonly referred to as 'sextortion').
Whatever the reason, even if someone has consented to an intimate image or video being taken of them, sharing that image or video without their consent can never be justified.
Is intimate image abuse different to "revenge porn"?
"Revenge porn" does not adequately capture the very nature and cause of this type of abuse. This term is misleading as it may, among other things:
- imply the person responsible for sharing the intimate image without the victim's consent is a former partner that may have been wronged – whilst people who share intimate images without consent do so for many reasons and some may not even know the victim;
- imply the victim has done something wrong and deserves "revenge" – but no one deserves to experience this form of abuse;
- liken the images to legal adult pornography in which adults have given expressed, voluntary and informed consent.
For those reasons and more we use the term 'intimate image abuse' instead.
What is sextortion, and is it a crime?
Sextortion is a form of blackmail where someone threatens to reveal or share intimate images of you online unless you give in to their demands. These demands are typically for money, but sometimes they could be for further intimate content or sexual favours.
Yes, it is a crime. Depending on the situation it could be intimate image abuse and/or online sexual coercion and extortion.
What if I sent an intimate images/video to a person in the first place, or we created them together?
By sharing your intimate image/video with someone, this does not mean that person has your consent to share it with others. Generally speaking consent should be a freely given "yes", whilst it should allow space to say "no" and to change your mind.
Would the sharing of intimate images without consent only refer to posting images on social media services and websites?
No, the Act covers all forms of online and offline communications that may be used to commit the offences within the scope of the Act, and subsequently cause harm to a person.
Who is at risk of intimate image abuse?
Intimate image abuse is more common that one might think, it impacts people no matter their age, gender, ethnicity, socio-economic background. Independent research, commissioned by the Department of Justice in April 2021, revealed among the findings that one in twenty adults surveyed disclosed to have had an intimate image of them shared without their consent. Furthermore, approx. one in ten adults aged 18-37 years.
Someone has shared an intimate image of me without my consent? What do I do?
If you have experienced intimate image abuse, the most important things to remember are that it is not your fault and you are not alone.
If the intimate image abuse is part of domestic violence or other abuse, staying safe is the number one priority.
Your safety is important to us. Before taking steps to get the intimate images shared without consent removed, make sure you have a safety plan in place; especially if the person responsible is also abusive offline.
If you do not already have a safety plan, you can contact organisations such as:
- Safe Ireland — click here to get help, create a safety plan
- Women's Aid — click here to view safety planning resources
- Men's Aid Ireland — click here to view how to make a safety plan
Safety planning is important to protect you in case the person responsible gets more abusive once the image or video is removed or the account is deleted.
Gardaí at your local Garda Station are always available to discuss your concerns in absolute confidence and provide whatever follow-up assistance/advice is required thereafter.
Additionally, Gardaí attached to your local Divisional Protective Services Unit (DPSU) will have experience in investigating offences occurring online. A DPSU has been established in each Garda Division countrywide. Your local Garda station will, on request, arrange for a DPSU Detective to make contact with you.
If an intimate image or video of you has been shared without your consent, you can report it to Hotline.ie at https://www.hotline.ie/report. Hotline.ie can help with reporting and removing the content online and, in some cases, liaising with An Garda Síochána, should you wish for it to be investigated by the Gardaí.
Before you report intimate image-based abuse, it is a good idea to keep a copy or screenshot of what you are experiencing, even though it is understandable that you might want to remove it as quickly as possible. This might help prove patterns of abuse and is could also prove useful when engaging with the Gardaí and the courts. It might also be useful should you wish to report the abuse or threatening behaviour to the social media service, App, website or other online service providers on which it was posted. It can help if you want the abusive user to be blocked from using that service.
This guidance is for collecting evidence of non-consensual intimate image sharing concerning adults. Be mindful that possessing, creating or sharing sexualised images of people under 18 constitutes a crime.
Although it is important to collect evidence, it is even more important that you stay safe. Make sure you collect evidence only when it is safe to do so and keep it somewhere safe.
How can Hotline.ie help?
If an intimate image or video of you has been shared without your consent, we can help with reporting and removing the content online and, in some cases, liaising with An Garda Síochána, should you wish for it to be investigated by Gardaí.
If you report an intimate image or video shared without your consent Hotline.ie may:
- Approach the online service provider on your behalf and request the removal of the intimate image or video shared without your consent. Whilst we cannot guarantee removal of all images, we have exceptional partnerships with online service providers, and we will use all reasonable efforts to help you.
- Help you find relevant resources.
- Provide you with advice on how to gather the information about the image or video.
- In some cases, help you make a formal complaint against the person responsible by liaising with An Garda Síochána on your behalf.
What we can't help with:
- This Hotline.ie service is available to victims of non-consensual sharing of intimate images who reside in the Republic of Ireland. If you live outside Ireland, please visit our international resources page to find out where you may be able to get support depending on where you live.
- Hotline.ie is unable to provide counselling or specialist emotional support. If you are a victim of intimate image abuse please find here a list of services in Ireland offering counselling or specialist emotional support that may be able to help.
- Hotline.ie is unable to provide legal advice, here is a list of services in Ireland which offer specialist support to victims.
- Hotline.ie cannot undertake criminal investigations.
For any urgent situation where you suspect a person may be in immediate danger please always report it directly to An Garda Síochána, either at your local Garda station or by using the free Garda Confidential Line 1800 666 111.
Who can make an intimate image abuse report to Hotline.ie?
You can report non-consensual sharing of intimate images, also commonly referred to as intimate image abuse, to Hotline.ie if:
- you are the person in the intimate image or video;
- you have been authorised by the person in the intimate image or video to make a report on their behalf;
- you are a parent or guardian of a person who is under 18 years of age,
- you are a parent or guardian of a person who is in a condition that makes them incapable of managing their own affairs
Please be aware that Hotline.ie can only take on reports of intimate images shared without consent if:
- the person in the image lives in Ireland,
- the person who is responsible lives in Ireland,
- both the person in the image and the person who is responsible live in Ireland, or
- otherwise the intimate image shared without consent is hosted in Ireland
For any urgent situation where you suspect a person may be in immediate danger please always report it directly to An Garda Síochána, either at your local Garda station or by using the Free Garda Confidential Line 1800 666 111.
If you live outside of Ireland, and the intimate image is hosted outside of Ireland please visit our international resources page to find out where you may be able to get support depending on where you live.
Can I make an anonymous intimate image abuse report to Hotline.ie?
In submitting an intimate image abuse report to Hotline.ie you are not required to prove/validate your identity. However, it is important that we have a way of contacting you; particularly should you wish to take action against the person responsible.
You can submit a report to Hotline.ie in respect of intimate images shared without consent by only providing your email address. If you do not wish to use your regular email address, you may consider creating a new email address so you can communicate with us safely.
What information do I need to make an intimate image abuse report to Hotline.ie?
To submit a report to Hotline.ie in respect of an intimate image shared without consent, you will need to provide some key information, such as:
- if you are making the report on someone's behalf, you generally need their permission; (Parents and guardians can make reports on behalf of children under 18)
- a way that we can contact you safely;
Whilst we respect your privacy, having no contact details may make it hard for Hotline.ie to take action on your behalf. We may need to contact you for further information in respect of your report. If you do not wish to use your regular email address, you may consider creating a new email address so you can communicate with us safely;
- the URL (web address) of the content;
Please note that it may be difficult to copy a web address if you use an App to view content, you may have to switch to a web browser such as Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome or Internet Explorer to copy the full web address.
- the name of the website or social media service on which the intimate image was shared or posted;
- as applicable details of any police involvement, for example if you have already lodge a complaint with An Garda Síochána;
- any other information that may be relevant to your report, for example date/time of the incident; the more detail you include regarding the issue at hand the better.
What happens if the victim is under 18 years old?
People under 18 can make an intimate image abuse report to Hotline.ie, or have someone, like a parent, guardian or other trusted adult, make a report on their behalf.
It is a criminal offence to possess, produce, distribute, transmit, disseminate, post, publish, show or makes available by any means sexually explicit material (image, video, pseudo-photograph, drawing, etc.) of a child (person under 18 years of age).
When a victim of intimate image abuse is under 18 different laws (Acts) may apply, such as the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 as amended by the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017.
In Ireland, the sexual abuse, sexual coercion and sexual exploitation of children are offences under the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 as amended by the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017, and are often referred to by the legal term "child pornography". For more information about child sexual abuse material please click here.
If you suspect to have come across child sexual abuse material online, please report it to Hotline.ie via our child sexual abuse material web-reporting form. Reports can be made anonymously. Every report matters and can make a tangible difference.
With each child sexual abuse reference (website, image, video, etc.) we remove from the Internet, there is one less instance of re-victimisation and a chance to give voice to an unidentified child who may be suffering in silence, often out of fear, often because they are too young to even speak.
What happens after I make an intimate image abuse report to Hotline.ie?
Each report we receive is assessed on a case-by-case basis, taking into account all the information provided to us by the reporter. For this reason, it is very important that you provide as much information as you can in your report. If our Analysts need further information we will be in contact via your preferred contact method provided with your report submission i.e. the email address you have provided or telephone number.
- Once Hotline.ie receives your report, we will send an acknowledgement to the email address that you provided with your report submission. The acknowledgement email will include the report unique reference key. Over the course of managing the report we will keep you informed of actions and outcomes.
- Our Analysts will subsequently assess whether the report meets the criteria about who can report, whether there is a need for further information together with applicable actions.
- We will contact you if more information is needed. You can also contact us at any time to update us or ask a question. When contacting us you will be asked for your report unique reference key.
- Where we share information with a third party, it will generally be at your request or with your permission. The exception may be where we are concerned for your safety, or the safety of others, or we are required to disclose information by law. For more information please read our Privacy Statement.
How long will it take to hear from Hotline.ie following an intimate image abuse report submission?
You can expect to hear from us within 48 hours, but in many cases we will be in touch sooner.
Please note that the Hotline.ie reporting portal is available online 24/7/365, therefore a member of the public may report suspected illegal content encountered on the Internet at any time. However, the reports are received and assessed by Hotline.ie during normal working hours Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).
Should I simultaneously report the intimate imagery shared without my consent to the online service provider?
Many social media services and websites have taken a strong stand against harmful content online, including intimate image abuse and ought to remove intimate images that are reported to them. We can help with removal but if you prefer you can report images direct to these sites.
It is a good idea to keep a copy or screenshot of what you are experiencing, even though it is understandable that you might want to remove it as quickly as possible. This might help prove patterns of abuse and it could also prove useful if you decide to engage with the police and the courts on this matter. This guidance is for collecting evidence of non-consensual intimate image sharing concerning adults. Be mindful that possessing, creating or sharing sexualised images of people under 18 is a crime.
Your safety is important to us. If you are experiencing domestic violence, before taking steps to get the images removed, make sure you have a safety plan in place.
How can An Garda Síochána help with intimate image abuse (IIA) cases?
An Garda Síochána's role in IIA will be to conduct a criminal investigation where a complaint relating to IIA is made, and to secure all relevant evidence for use in any future court proceedings that may arise in connection to the IIA formal complaint made.
How do I report intimate image abuse cases directly to An Garda Síochána?
Any victim of intimate image abuse can contact their local Garda station to make a report. The reporting Garda will ask you to make a written statement of complaint in which you will be required to outline the circumstances that apply in your case, such as the nature of the content involved; how, where and when it was shared; and to confirm that it has been shared without your consent. The investigating Garda may need access to your electronic device in order to secure evidence relating to this offence and associated meta-data for use in future criminal proceedings.
Additionally, Gardaí attached to your local Divisional Protective Services Unit (DPSU) will have experience in investigating offences occurring online. You may wish to make contact directly with that unit for advice and to make a formal complaint. A DPSU has been established in each Garda Division countrywide. Your local Garda station will, on request, arrange for a DPSU Detective to make contact with you.
There are also online confidential phone-number options for reporting matters, including non-consensual sharing of intimate images, to An Garda Síochána. However, availing of these options may lead to a less rapid investigative response than will result from calling, in person, to your local Garda station. In cases of this type; evidence can be perishable and time is an important consideration.
What do I need to have / prepare when reporting intimate image abuse cases directly to An Garda Síochána?
If you are the person impacted by this behaviour and where it is possible to secure and you feel confident to do so; it would be helpful to screenshot/secure a copy of the intimate image shared without your consent, and any other visible features that are available - such as sender ID, date and time of sharing and platform upon which content was shared.
Why is it important to preserve evidence?
An Garda Síochána require all available evidence in order to ensure that your complaint can be thoroughly investigated. It is also a legal requirement in any subsequent criminal prosecution which may follow that all available evidence/other information is gathered and accessible for inspection as part of the prosecution process.
Although it is important to collect evidence, it is even more important that you stay safe. Make sure you collect evidence only when it is safe to do so and keep it somewhere safe.
This guidance is for collecting evidence of non-consensual intimate image sharing concerning adults. Be mindful that possessing, creating or sharing sexualised images of people under 18 may constitute a crime.
How do I collect and store information relating to intimate images shared without my consent?
Once you consider it safe, make sure you act quickly in case the material is removed. It is important to have factual proof of the abuse and the order in which it happened, so that, as outlined above, it can be secured for use as evidence in court.
Along with securing a copy of the intimate image shared without your consent; it is important that, if available, you also record the time(s) and date(s) the content was shared and include any other visible information, as this may transpire to be important. This could include information such as the username(s) of the person(s) who shared the material without your consent.
You should secure and save evidence of any photos or videos that have been posted online, either by downloading same or by taking screenshots or photos of the content. You should also save or record evidence of the webpage address(es) (URLs) or social media services (including account or profile usernames) where the photos or videos have been shared without your consent.
Screenshots are a quick and effective way; they may also have the added advantage of recording other details such as usernames and dates, but it is important to also take detailed records to accompany screenshots. Screenshots should also be taken where content such as abusive posts or texts are encountered, while emails or voicemail messages should be saved or copied, as applicable.
PLEASE TAKE NOTE OF THE FOLLOWING ADVICE WITH REGARD TO CONTENT THAT APPEARS TO BE EVIDENCE: This guidance is for collecting evidence of non-consensual intimate image sharing concerning adults. Be mindful that possessing, creating or sharing sexualised images of people under 18 is a crime. In Ireland, the sexual abuse, sexual coercion and sexual exploitation of children are offences under the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 as amended by the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017, and are often referred to, in legal terminology, as "child pornography". For more information about child sexual abuse material please click here.
If I report the IIA case to AGS, do I also need to report it to Hotline.ie for content removal?
Yes, specifically adults 18+; online service providers generally require a request stemming from the person featured in the imagery before taking action to have the content removed. Hotline.ie have put in place the mechanisms and associated protocols with online service providers and are best-placed to assist you in achieving the removal of intimate images. On this basis, engaging with Hotline.ie will offer the quickest and most effective means by which to effect removal of non-consensual intimate images shared.
What to do if you are worried about your immediate safety?
Where there is an immediate safety risk or you become aware of one - call 999.
Where the situation does not require an urgent response at that moment in time, but the removal of content or another party's access to that content has the potential to be an aggravating factor which may result in an escalated level of threat to your safety and well-being; Gardaí at your local Garda Station are always available to discuss your concerns in absolute confidence and provide whatever follow-up assistance/advice is required thereafter.
Your local Garda station will, on request, arrange for a Divisional Protective Services Unit (DPSU) Detective to make contact with you.
What should I do if someone I know (a friend) has experience intimate image abuse?
Family and friends play an important role in helping people who have experienced intimate image abuse. Reassure them that it's not their fault. Let them know that your believe them, that you care and that you are there to help. Encourage them to speak to a support service.
Your friend may feel distressed, humiliated, depressed, anxious, angry. Even if they try to push you away it is a good idea to check in on them and make sure they are ok.
Click here for information on supports and services.
How can I get help for what I am feeling?
Remember, it is not your fault. Anyone can experience intimate image abuse. You are not alone and you have not done anything wrong.
Reach out - get support from a trusted friend or family member, or from an expert counselling and support service if you are feeling anxious or stressed. The following support services are available to you also. For a full list of services please click here.
- Women's Aid - 1800 341 900
- Men's Aid – 01 554 3811 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Aware – 1800 80 48 48
- Samaritans – 116 123 or email email@example.com
- Pieta House – 1800 247 247 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Teen-Line Ireland – 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 18)
- Childline – 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s).