The Malta Chamber of Psychologists has condemned the way a young woman's private video footage was shared without her consent, but said the outcry that was raised shows society is changing.
The video, showing sexual activity, was shared without the women's consent and projected before a group of men from a football club, leading to the resignation of their coach.
The Chamber of Psychologists said gender, power and control are at the very heart of image-based abuse. A report on such abuse in Australia, New Zealand and the UK found that the two main perpetrator motives were control and misogyny. Image-based abuse motivated by control is often a way to continue abuse even once a relationship has ended.
"One of the myths around image-based abuse is that it is relatively harmless, since we’re talking of “just photos” or “just videos”. This is far from the truth. Consent matters. Sharing images of a sexual nature is distressing, because it violates bodily autonomy and expectations that we get to decide who sees or touches our bodies, and in what way," the chamber said.
The experience of image-based abuse can be so distressing that women interviewed about such experiences reported effects similar to those commonly reported by rape victims.
The chamber said that in order to solve this problem, it must first be acknowledged.
"We must acknowledge that we live in a country where as recently as in the year 2017, one out of five people believed that it is justifiable to rape a woman if she is wearing sexy clothes and what this says about attitudes towards women’s right to express their sexuality without losing their right to their bodily autonomy," the chamber said.
"However, the fact that this leaked video is being talked about, shows that our society is already changing. The resignation of the coach of the football club which participated in the sharing of the video in a restaurant also suggests more serious condemnation of image-based abuse. These are hopeful signs that our society is starting to move towards condemning violations of consent and bodily autonomy the way they should be condemned. We must continue to be clear that all people have the right to decide what happens to their body, including any images and videos of it, and that spreading such material without consent is not funny, harmless or manly; it is an act of abuse, and must be unilaterally condemned," the chamber said.