Researchers and social workers looking into the issue of sexual violence on Tuesday called for more public education on the behavior of non-consensual photography, after they found that many offenders did not understand the gravity of such acts or why they did them.
They also warned of a rising trend in the crime, noting that the number of people seeking help under a treatment programme at Caritas Hong Kong increased threefold from 28 in 2015 to 86 in 2021, all of them men.
Between October 2019 and August 2021, Caritas Hong Kong and Lingnan University interviewed 50 men who had received counselling from the programme for secretly taking photos of others’ intimate parts.
All of the interviewees had at some point in their lives been found out for taking secret photos of others, and most were arrested for their acts.
Researchers noted that the interviewees came from a wide range of backgrounds, suggesting anyone, in spite of their social status or education level, could commit the offence.
Many interviewees reported feeling addicted to taking secret photos of others and said their actions were unplanned.
Stress, boredom, a lack of motivation, social events and the pandemic were some of the reasons they believed prompted their actions.
Some also cited the influence of pornography, desire for women and excitement as factors contributing to their behavior.
Researchers pointed out that some offenders had felt shame over their conduct, but believed it was nothing serious.
Francis Kong, a social worker and sex therapist at Caritas Hong Kong, said some of their clients did not realise that what they did could cause serious psychological harm to others.
“Our society lack relevant public education. People take secret photography too lightly. They don’t see it as a violation of other people or sex violence. Many even believe that it’s okay to do it as long as others don’t find out," he said.
Annie Chan, an associate professor from Lingnan University’s Department of Sociology and Social Policy, described secret photography as a social problem, adding that labeling offenders wouldn't help tackle the problem.
“It was a surprise for me to find out how much the men, or the so-called perpetrators, how much they themselves suffered, and how much they still do not understand why they did what they did.
“[We should not] only think of them as wolves, demons, or perverts. These are everyday men, regular men who need help,” she said.
Caritas also said more effort should be made to raise people’s awareness about the legal consequences of upskirt photography and the impact it will have on people’s privacy and autonomy.