Where the Intimate Image Protection Act falls short

Correction: The Manitoba RCMP tweet mentioned was tweeted in 2021.

Many people have taken or been sent an intimate photo. A survey consisting of 2,000 people across America and Europe shows that roughly 40 per cent of men and 36 per cent of women aged 18 to 24 in America have admitted to sending a sexual photo. These figures are relatively similar in Europe. It appears that amongst younger generations, there is less stigma that follows sharing intimate images. With the Intimate Image Protection Act in place to protect people’s images from getting shared without consent, taking sexual photos is becoming more and more common.

In simple terms, anyone who publishes, shares or sells an intimate image without clear consent is guilty of violating the Intimate Image Protection Act. Individuals that violate these regulations are liable to imprisonment for up to five years or a summary conviction which includes financial fines and potential prison time.

Recently, a violation of the Intimate Image Protection Act went to court in Brandon, Man. Brittany Roque had a three-month affair with a Brandon police officer in 2015.

Two years later, the officer’s girlfriend — Terri-Lyn Peters — found approximately 100 intimate photos sent from multiple women, including Roque. When Peters found out that Roque was applying for a job as a constable with the Brandon Police Service, she sent the private images to the police service.

Peters claims it was done out of the public’s interest. However, she testified to not even knowing how her boyfriend had received those images. For all she knew, he could have stolen the images. The bottom line is that Peters broke the law by sharing these photos without Roque’s consent. The knowledge of a potential employer having intimate photos of you is humiliating and uncomfortable.

Upon receiving these photos, the Brandon Police Force removed Roque from consideration for the position of constable. Roque is a victim of “revenge porn,” yet she was punished. So, what exactly is the Intimate Image Protection Act protecting victims from if the very institutions meant to uphold this act neglects it?

As the act stands currently, victims can request to have the photos returned or destroyed, or they can sue the person who released the images. There is nothing to protect how peers will view these individuals afterwards and nothing to protect victims from being discriminated against in their careers. A lot of this is due to how society views people who partake in this activity.

There are a lot of unnecessary stigmas attached to intimate images, especially considering how common it is. Taking intimate photos of yourself is not illegal, and it shouldn’t be anyone else’s business — let alone employers’. What is illegal is distributing these photos without consent. When intimate images are leaked, we shouldn’t be offended that they were ever taken. We should be offended that someone would share those images without permission.

Like many other issues, the general public is quick to question the victim. “Love doesn’t always last forever, but pictures do! This Valentine’s keep your privates private,” tweeted RCMP Manitoba in 2021.

Instead of warning people of the potential risk they take when sending intimate images, we need to hold offenders accountable. The more we speak up about this issue, the easier it will be for future victims to come forward.

Like it or not, intimate images will be taken. More measures to protect people from unseen consequences are necessary. If someone sends an image to a significant other, the last thing they are thinking about is the possibility of revenge porn.

Speaking up about these issues can be horrifying, but power comes in numbers. Changing a stigma cannot be achieved overnight, and there are simply too many victims to avoid the conversation any longer. If an institution that purportedly upholds the value of the law can disregard that law to the detriment of victims, then something is grotesquely wrong.