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One In Three Australians Have Been Victims Of 'Revenge Porn'

A revealing new report has found that jilted ex-lovers are not the only ones who are sharing nude images online without consent, as cases of image-based sexual abuse have dramatically increased in Australia.

Colloquially referred to as “revenge porn”, image-based sexual abuse is the non-consensual taking, sharing or threatening to share nude or sexual images of a person. It also includes editing photos and then distributing them.

The new research conducted by RMIT and Monash University surveyed more than 2000 Australians and found one in three had been victims of image-based abuse. This had increased from one in five in 2016.

A new report has found one in three Australians have been victims of image-based abuse. Image: Getty

Not only were there more victims, but those identified as perpetrators is also on the rise.

One in six people surveyed reported they had taken, shared or made threats to share a nude or sexual image of a person without that person’s consent.

Four years prior that rate was one in 10.

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“We found that image-based sexual abuse is used by perpetrators of domestic violence and sexual assault, in stalking and sexual harassment, as well as in threats and bullying by peers and other known people,” the report's author Associate Professor Anastasia Powell said.

Rates of image-based sexual abuse victimisation were slightly lower in Australia when compared to the U.K. and New Zealand.

“Not only this, but we found high numbers of victims had never consented to having their image taken," Powell said.

The researchers found this includes people being snapped without their knowledge -- sometimes while they were sleeping or taking a shower.

The report found high numbers of victims had never consented to having their image taken. Image: Getty Images

The report is the first cross-national survey on image-based sexual abuse.

"We need community attitudes to change so that whether it is our friend, a family member, a fellow student or co-worker whose image is shared without consent - we place the blame and shame on the perpetrator of the image-based sexual abuse and not on the victim,” report co-author Associate Professor Asher Flynn said.

The researchers found that young people were twice as likely as those aged over 40 to be victims of image-based sexual abuse and men and women reported a similar frequency of being victims.

The research also revealed that less than half of those surveyed knew that it was a crime to take, distribute or threaten such images without permission.

This echoes findings from a 2019 report from the Office of the eSafety Commissioner which found there was little or no awareness of the legal implications of circulating the images without consent.

Some of those who shared such images said they did it for fun, to impress friends or trade images, or to embarrass or get back at the person in the photograph.

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“We are not surprised by these findings, which confirm our own experience," eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant told 10 daily.

In Australia, there are both criminal penalties, and a civil penalties scheme administered by eSafety to combat 'revenge porn'.

“We have helped more than 2300 Australians who have been targeted by image-based abuse, with a success rate of 90 per cent in having this damaging material removed from the internet," Grant said.

According to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner, an intimate image is one that shows;

  • a person’s genital area or anal area (whether bare or covered by underwear)
  • a person’s breasts (if the person identifies as female, transgender or intersex)
  • private activity (for example a person undressing, using the bathroom, showering, bathing or engaged in sexual activity)
  • a person without attire of religious or cultural significance if they would normally wear such attire in public.

“This new research provides important insights into perpetrator motivations, but more work needs to be done in terms of prevention and deterrence," she said.

The Commissioner operates a website with advice, assistance and ways to seek legal support for victims.

Contact the author alattouf@networkten.com.au