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The 23-year-old is backing women’s support charity Refuge in a campaign for prosecution of anyone who threatens to share intimate photos or videos of another person without their consent. The former parliamentary aide, herself a survivor of revenge porn, joined campaigners in Parliament Square yesterday to take The Naked Threat crusade to MPs.

She said: “I understand the mental and emotional implications that something like this can have on a person. I’ve been through it several times at different ages.

“But what I’ve never been through is the threat to release imagery and videos. I can’t even imagine what it must feel like to have an abuser hold that over someone. It’s a method of control.” A study showed that one in seven young women have been threatened in this way, despite the law against revenge porn, and often by current or former partners.

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The sharing of private or sexual images or videos of a person without their consent became an offence in England and Wales in April 2015.

Refuge has called for an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill when it returns to the House of Lords in the coming days.

Zara, from Essex, added: “This is so important. We’re moving into a society where everything is going to be online. The sooner we nip things like this in the bud the better.

“It’s important for victims to know this is wrong and against the law. It will give victims more of a voice.”

Former culture secretary Nicky Morgan also offered her support for the campaign outside parliament. She said: “We have the opportunity to change the law in the House of Lords and I hope we’ll take it.”

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Refuge has a 24-hour freephone National DomesticAbuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247 and support is also available on nationaldahelpline.org.uk

Comment by Lisa King

Yesterday was a unique day for Refuge.

With the Domestic Abuse Bill soon due back before Parliament we took our #TheNakedThreat campaign, which calls upon Government to make threatening to share intimate or sexual images a crime, to the heart of law-making.

Covid-19 has meant our ability to lobby has been restricted. Instead we’ve created a “digital ransom note” which will stand boldly in front of Parliament to urge MPs and Peers to take swift decisive action to change the law. With the support of Zara McDermott, who has experienced intimate image abuse and worked at Whitehall, we hope our message is noticed.

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Refuge launched the campaign in response to the many women repeatedly telling us that they had been threatened and controlled by their abusive partners, being made to live in the fear that their intimate images or films would be shared.

This pernicious threat is used to control, manipulate, scare and force women to stay with abusive partners.

In England and Wales this form of abuse is not an offence – so not only are women left trapped with their abusers but neither can they get support from police whose hands are often tied.

The Bill could be law by end of the year. We hope MPs and Peers hear us – lives depend on it.

Lisa King is Refuge’s communications director

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