The recording and distribution of sexual assaults, including rape, needs to be made a criminal offence, according to Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI).
The group said it is making the call because clients are telling them this is happening “more and more frequently”.
The recommendation is part of a detailed submission to the Oireachtas justice committee, which is embarking on an examination of online harassment and harmful communications.
In a separate submission, the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre said Ireland’s current criminal legislation is “entirely inadequate” to address harassment, stalking, voyeurism and other harmful online behaviour.
The Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017 is currently going through the Oireachtas. It is based on a private member’s bill from Labour leader Brendan Howlin, which in turn is based on a 2016 Law Reform Commission report.
In its submission, RCNI said it broadly supported the bill, but called for amendments:
“We respectfully submit that a new specific offence criminalising the creation of audio or audio-visual records of sexual assaults including rape, and their distribution, would be valuable, because we are aware from our work with our clients that these offences are being recorded and those recordings shared on the internet, more and more frequently.”
The body said “significant penalties” should be attached to this offence.
The RCNI also wants threats to harass to be included, adding that sextortion was “increasing”.
It called for “deepfaking” to be included in the bill to cover cases where an original image, that is not intimate, is subsequently doctored without consent by grafting in images of breasts, genitals and anal regions.
The RCNI said there should be separate “voyeurism-related offences” to cover viewing victims without consent in intimate settings and installing equipment to record images.
The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) said harmful content should be defined as content that “seriously interferes with the peace and privacy of the other person or causes alarm, distress or harm to the other person”.
It said freedom of expression was not an absolute right and “must be balanced” against the harm caused by online harmful communication.
“Currently, our existing criminal legislation on this issue is entirely inadequate to address issues of harassment, stalking, voyeurism or other harmful online behaviour and does not protect the rights of those who are victims of it,” the DRCC said.
Both the RCNI and the DRCC backed a Digital Safety Commissioner.
The DRCC said that gardaí were “insufficiently equipped and resourced” in this area, partly due to lack of legislation. It said gardaí required “further powers of discovery and seizure” from internet companies.
In relation to child perpetrators, the DRCC backed the LRC call for a “less coercive response”, one where a “threshold” should be required before applying the law on them.
The DRCC said children and young people should be educated in “harmful and healthy relationships”.