With restrictions on physical contact in place, many people have been trying new forms of online sexual activity. Some governments and centres for disease control even recommended that people engage in virtual sexual activity rather than in person. This activity can be a healthy addition to a person’s sex life and a novel way to safely connect with new sexual partners, but it also opens new avenues for exploitation when misused by abusers.
In April 2020, the UK Revenge Porn Helpline saw a 98 percent increase in reported cases compared to the same month in 2019. Several months into the pandemic, the significant spike in numbers had still not abated, and the helpline saw higher numbers of “sextortion” (sexual extortion) cases targeting women than usual. Helpline employees feared that the pandemic had triggered an increase in image-based sexual abuse that was here to stay.