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Stephen Bear’s 21 Month Sentence For Image Based Sexual Abuse

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at DCU chapter.

With its criminalisation in many jurisdictions in recent years, Image-Based Sexual Abuse (IBSA) has been a great topic of discussion within the legal space and in the media. Its recognition as an offence has been greatly welcomed, particularly given the rapid development of new social media sites and AI technology. Dr Kelly Johnson, Assistant Professor at Durham University’s Department of Sociology, who specialises in research on Image-Based Sexual Abuse explains that the lockdown measures taken during Covid-19 have accelerated the rate of IBSA occurring all over the world, 

We’ve seen a huge increase in image-based sexual abuse against women during the lockdown. More communication is taking place digitally, and that has likely increased the exchanging of sexual images.

Of course, this does not justify perpetrators sharing a victim’s private photos without their consent. We should avoid victim-blaming at all costs. The issue of IBSA is not that victims are choosing to send sexual images, but rather that a perpetrator has chosen to share them without their consent, breaching their privacy and trust.

This is the message that a judge chose to deliver while delivering his guilty verdict of the disgraced Ex on the Beach contestant, Stephen Bear. Bear was sentenced to 21 months in prison after being found guilty of voyeurism and two counts of disclosing private, sexual photographs and films. Bear was found guilty on the grounds of sharing a sex tape featuring his ex-girlfriend, Georgia Harrison, without her consent or knowledge. The video appeared on the online subscription site OnlyFans. Bear advertised the clip as ‘Can’t wait to see me f****** in the garden,” which Georgia Harrison was airdropped, realising Bear was making money from the views of the sex tape.

The court heard how Georgia had begged him not to share the footage. The judge described the “extensive humiliation and embarrassment” that Bear had inflicted on Harrison. Following the verdict, Harrison revealed that,

I have felt ashamed, hurt, violated, even broken at times but today I stand here feeling empowered, grateful and a huge sense of unity with all of those who have reached out to support me throughout this ordeal.

The judge ordered Bear to sign the sex offenders register and placed him under a restraining order not to contact Harrison for five years, ultimately he was also sentenced to 21 months in prison. Judge Christopher Morgan said that this verdict was “only appropriate” given the extent of Bear’s horrific crimes as well as the great pain and humiliation that he deliberately caused Harrison in order to “exploit the economic value” of the video, making at least £40k from uploading the clip. The judge also dismissed Bear’s claim that he was unaware that the CCTV of himself and Georgia having sex was recorded, stating that he “deliberately lied,” for his own benefit. He then went on to praise Georgia for speaking out, saying she had suffered “extensive humiliation and embarrassment.” at the hands of Bear.

After bravely waving her right to anonymity, Georgia said she was “relieved” by the verdict. She said in a statement: “The last two years have been absolute hell and this verdict will allow me to start to put the pain I have suffered in the past and start embracing the future” 

Evidently, the verdict has shown that the legal system has taken a step in the right direction in providing a sense of justice for victims of image-based sexual abuse. In doing so, the legal system has recognised that in our modern society, sexual abuse comes in many different forms and not limiting it to the physical act of abuse. The verdict delivered was certainly a stepping stone in recognising the humiliation that victims suffer as a result of image-based sexual abuse. It also recognises that in the modern dating world, nudes and sexual images are extremely common.  As Glamour reports,

Sending nudes is an increasingly common part of modern dating. In fact, 43% of young women have sent intimate or sexual images (for men, that’s 27%), according to a report published last month by Refuge. But there’s also been an unmistakable rise in these intimate images ending up online against the sender’s wishes. Figures obtained by the BBC from police forces across England and Wales show that the number of cases has soared by 117% between 2015/16 to 2018/19, from 852 to 1853.

Therefore, it is important that the law adapts to modern dating, and puts safeguards in place in order to protect a person’s sexual images and videos from being shared without their consent.

However, what remains problematic regarding the crime, is that anonymity cannot be provided to the victims of this crime in the way that it is provided to victims with regard to other sex crimes. In order for Georgia Harrison to go through with this trial, she had to waive her anonymity, forcing her to make her pain and suffering a public matter. This gap in the law makes it extremely difficult for victims to come forward when they have been victimised by image-based sexual abuse. The intense fear and shame that comes with this makes victims reluctant to report the crime. 

Image-based sexual abuse perpetrated by those such as Bear onto victims has devastating consequences. We hope that Georgia Harrison’s bravery in sharing her story has created widespread awareness and provided some form of justice, not only to her, but also to anyone who has unfortunately found themselves victim to the pain and degradation caused by Image-based sexual abuse. 

20 year old law student. HerCampus DCU Editor in Chief