Extend the Public Interest Disclosure Act to Protect Survivors in the Age of Me Too

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The Survivor’s law

We are calling on the government to extend the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 to protect victims of domestic abuse, sexual abuse, and child sexual abuse who ‘blow the whistle’ on their perpetrator's actions regardless of the relationship of the abuser to the victim. Currently this law only protects employees ‘blowing the whistle’ on an employer but we believe in cases of serious abuse it is in the public interest to be aware of serious crime and wrongdoing (s.4 of the 2013 Defamation Act), particularly for the future protection and safeguarding of others.

In 2017 the #MeToo movement saw thousands of people speak out about interpersonal abuse they had experienced. in 2020 we are now seeing another wave of brave survivors coming forward to tell their stories and in some cases name their abusers. When survivors speak out, they are exercising their rights under Article 8 (right to respect for family and private life) and Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Despite this many survivor’s face threats of civil litigation from their abuser.

The matter of public interest is the right of victims of domestic abuse, sexual abuse, and child sexual abuse, who have either reported to police and been told there is insufficient evidence to enable a charging decision or been dissuaded directly or indirectly to report due to the current low conviction rates in the UK or for other valid reasons. To speak out openly on social media about their experience, including where appropriate identifying the person they have accused.

The objectives of speaking out, which are an aspect of this public interest, include (i) helping to end the stigma of being treated as a “victim” of sexual violence, domestic violence, and child sexual abuse, which is compounded by survivors being expected to remain silent, (ii) thereby also helping survivors to recover, and others to come forward (iii) as well as warning other individuals about the alleged perpetrator. It is becoming common practice for perpetrators of sex crimes to send their victims and public supporters of their victims who have publicly spoken out cease and desists. Serving them with civil litigation for reasons such as misuse of private information, harassment, libel, defamation or whatever else they can to protect their reputations.

We are calling for an end to this practice, particularly as the current prosecution rate for reported sex crimes is at a low of 1.4%, making it even easier for perpetrators to sue their victims. Perpetrators forfeit their right to privacy when they commit sex crimes and it is in the public interest to be aware of their wrongdoing due to the seriousness of the crime. We desperately need protections in common law for victims of serious interpersonal abuse. Especially as civil litigation can often be a tool to further exacerbate and extend the initial trauma the victim has been subjected to.

We strongly believe that the human rights of survivor’s outweigh that of their abusers due to high public interest as opposed to keeping allegations private. Furthermore, an abuser forfeits their rights to protection from defamation when they abuse. We believe crimes of this nature have a higher public interest threshold than they do an individual’s right to protect their reputation.