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Understanding victims' and police experiences of image-based sexual abuse

Improving victim support and police training by exploring victim and police perspectives on the non-consensual sharing of sexual/nude images. 

Key details

Lead institution
Principal researcher(s)
Georgina Mclocklin
Police region
East Midlands
Project start date
Date due for completion

Research context

Current research on image-based sexual abuse (the non-consensual sharing of intimate images) has focused on the detrimental impact it has on victims (Bates, 2017; McGlynn and others, 2020), issues with the new UK legislation tackling this crime (McGlynn and others, 2021) and victims’ reluctance to seek help (Ruvalcaba & Eaton, 2019) or report to the police (Short and others, 2017).

As more people are experiencing image-based sexual abuse (Hall & Hearn, 2017; Criddle, 2020) exploring how we can improve victim support and reporting rates is important.

The minimal research with police on image-based sexual abuse has found police have a limited understanding of the current legislation and many self-report not feeling confident about how to respond to the crime or victims (Bond & Tyrell, 2018).

After exploring barriers to policing image-based sexual abuse from stakeholders’ perspectives, Henry and others (2018), made three recommendations – one was to improve police training and resources by improving the police’s understanding of the law, and how to respond to cases and victims appropriately.

This study aims to explore victim and police experiences and opinions on image-based sexual abuse to help develop recommendations for responding appropriately. Exploring this from victim and police perspectives will allow better understanding of the police-victim relationship, giving both victims and police a voice.

The police voice is important as their expertise allows for realistic recommendations and reflections on how this new crime may relate to other crimes. Understanding how to respond to victims effectively may help improve police confidence in responding to image-based sexual abuse and victim support. 


  1. Identify possible barriers/challenges to this crime from victim and police perspectives.
  2. Understanding victim needs and police realities.
  3. Exploring police-victim interactions from victim and police perspectives to identify what contributes to a good police-victim relationship.

Research methodology

Approximately 20 qualitative interviews will be conducted with police officers (of any rank) across UK police services. Although it would be preferable for police officers to have had direct experience working on cases involving the non-consensual sharing of sexual/nude images, it is not essential. If police officers have experience, they will be asked to reflect on this generally (no specific details about individual cases are required). The researcher is recruiting nationally, therefore no single police service/force will be identified through the research.

Participation involves a one-to-one semi-structured interview lasting approximately an hour. Interviews will be conducted online using Teams, thus not requiring any local police resources.

The interviews will be audio-recorded and then transcribed into written format. The original audio will be kept confidential and during transcription the data will be anonymised (removing names, dates, locations). Quotes/extracts from the anonymised data may be used within publications to support the analysis. The police transcripts will be analysed collectively and then multi-perspective thematic analysis will be used to analyse these alongside victim interviews to identify convergence and divergence. 

Anyone interested in the research will be asked to contact the researcher for more information. A detailed participant information sheet will then be provided to ensure the individual makes an informed decision on if they’d like to participate. If they decide to proceed, a date and time will be set up that suits them. Before the interview starts, the key research information is repeated to allow them to ask any questions about the research to ensure they understand what it involves.

Participants can withdraw from the research at any point during the interview or up to 4 weeks after the interview. All contact details obtained (for example, email addresses) will be kept confidential and will not be shared.

Access to police systems or personal data is not required.

Research participation

The researcher is looking to interview current (& recently former) police officers about their thoughts and experiences of working on cases involving the non-consensual sharing of sexual/nude images. 
Although direct experience working on these cases is preferred, this is not required.
The interview will be online and will last approximately an hour. Your interview will be anonymised (no names, dates, locations, police forces). Personal details are kept confidential. 

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