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As with deep fakes, the proliferation of image based abuse – aka ‘revenge porn’ – is an insidious trend. Not only does it violates the privacy of the victim, it also links to domestic and family violence. With over 50% of adults consensually sharing such images, the law needs to provide adequate protection. This post will briefly examine some of the concerns surrounding this kind of behaviour.

Why is this a privacy concern?

Privacy lie at the heart of imaged based abuse. Image based abuse, colloquially known as ‘revenge porn’, involves the non-consensual distribution of images of people at their most vulnerable.

Sending such images is common in many relationships and when done consensually, they can be a fun and liberating activity.  However, having control over your images is a fundamental aspect of privacy and the non-consensual distribution of such material is deeply invasive. It denies the autonomy of the individuals affected and robs them of the ability to control if how and when something that is deeply intimate to them is made available to other people. Moreover, it is often intended to cause humiliation and it can cause severe psychological harm.

What is image based abuse?

Image based abuse is the non-consensual distribution of intimate images. In Australia, existing laws in this area attempt to protect victims of image based abuse, however there is concern that they do not go far enough.

This article will focus on the laws in New South Wales.

In NSW, intimate images is defined as ‘images of a person’s private parts (bare, or otherwise covered by underwear) or…an image of a person engaged in a private act. The essential aspect of this offence is that the image is distributed without the victims consent. Accordingly, it is not an offence for an individual to send intimate images freely and voluntarily to another person. The Crimes Act also provides guidance to the meaning of consent, as it relates to this provision. Crucially, consent must be free and voluntary. This highlights the importance of autonomy and agency. 

How widespread is image abuse?

A recent study found that one in five respondents were a victim of this type of abuse, and in most cases the perpetrator was known to the abuser; once again highlighting the need for protection of individuals.  

What are some of difficulties with prosecution?

These statistics are particularly concerning because prosecution is lengthy and can often be an arduous and traumatic process (by which time the image may be widely distributed). Victims are often blamed for sharing their images and prosecution may not completely eradicate their images from third party sites!

Getting help

If you, or someone you know has been the victim of image based abuse, you can file a report to the eSafety Commission who can try and remove the content and can also delete or block accounts. The eSafety Commissioner also has the power to take action against the person who shared the image. 

If you are or have in the past experienced image based abuse it is a good idea to talk to someone and get. There are a number of support and counseliling services out there to help you deal with the emotional effects of this crime:

Confidential counselling, support and information for people affected by sexual abuse or domestic and family violence

Phone counselling service available all day, every day. Online chat available 7pm to 4am AEST

Confidential phone and online chat counselling service available during the day for young persons aged between 5 to 25 years of age

provides information, resources, support specifically relating to image-based abuse

Provides free legal assistance in criminal, family and civil law matters  

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