'Revenge porn' surge fast becoming UK Internet crisis

Charities and one of the UK's leading online support groups have raised concerns over the surging numbers of people coming forward to say that they've been affected by "revenge porn."

The revenge porn term was coined in the 1980s after photographs of naked women were submitted by readers to a magazine called "Beaver Hunt" - often without the women's permission. Nowadays, it refers to any sexually explicit media that is publically shared online without the consent of the pictured individual, male or female.

In the most troubling cases, personal details of the victims are also posted online. These can include their name, job title or even their address and phone number.

In the US, the states of New Jersey, California, Utah and Texas have introduced laws making the proliferation of revenge porn illegal. The UK is yet to follow suit, and now a number of UK charities including the National Stalking Helpline, Women's Aid and the UK Safer Internet Centre are calling for a clampdown on this non-consensual form of abuse.

Reporting to BBC Newsbeat, these organisations report an overwhelming increase in helpline calls over the past 12 months. UK laws state that legal action can be sought if a person commits more than one offence against their ex-partner, but there is currently very little support for the victims and many police officials are unsure of what appropriate action they can take.

"There is legislation here in the UK but I don't think it's very co-ordinated," Laura Higgins of the UK Safer Internet Centre told Newsbeat. "It depends very much on who your local police force are and whether your courts have had experience of dealing with these issues."

It's a pertinent issue, especially as the UK clamps down on the adult entertainment industry with the introduction of Internet porn filters on major UK ISPs.

For revenge porn, however, the precise scope of the problem is unclear. Branded a form of virtual rape, many victims are too ashamed to come forward. Still, as more and more cases come to light it is hoped that the government will take stricter action and provide proper guidelines to help those affected by the phenomenon.

To find out more, call the Safer Internet Centre helpline on 0844 381 4772.