- Image-based abuse happens when a nude or sexual image of a person is shared without their consent or permission
- Image-based abuse can happen to anyone, and like other forms of abuse, it is usually about power and control
- Image-based abuse is not acceptable and is against the law
- There are ways to get support if image-based abuse is happening to you or someone you know.
What is image-based abuse?
Image-based abuse happens when a nude or sexual image of a person is taken or shared without that person’s permission. Image-based abuse also includes threatening to take or share a nude or sexual image of another person. Abusers can be intimate partners, ex-partners, family members, friends, people you work with or strangers.
Image-based abuse can also be called ‘revenge pornography’. This is how it may be spoken about in the news or media, but revenge is not always the reason behind image-based abuse. People might use this type of abuse for many different reasons, including for money or to embarrass or control another person.
What does image-based abuse look like?
Image-based abuse can be many different things. Someone may share (or threaten to share) intimate photos or videos of a person without their permission so that others, including the person’s friends and family, will see them. This could be:
- On the internet, including a website or blog
- On social media sites, like Facebook or Instagram
- With a mobile phone, through text message or other message app.
Some abusers will include information to identify the person in the image. They may also encourage others to contact the person and post abusive comments about the image. In some cases, the images of a person are taken or shared in private settings, without the person knowing. Abusers may also try to blackmail or ask for money by threatening to share a person’s intimate images.
Some images may be taken with permission, for example, images shared during an intimate relationship. It becomes abuse when there is no consent for images to be taken or shared, or when the abuser threatens to share the images with others. An abuser can also get personal images by accessing a computer or other digital device, or by using threats to make a person send an image of themselves to the abuser.
Some examples of image-based abuse include:
- Taking a nude or sexual image of another person without their permission
- Sharing a nude or sexual image of another person without their permission
- Posting a nude or sexual image of another person online without their permission
- Photoshopping a person’s image onto a sexually explicit photograph or video
- Taking an image of a woman’s breasts or cleavage without her permission (known as ‘downblousing’)
- Taking an image up a woman’s skirt without her permission (known as ‘upskirting’)
- Secretly filming consensual sexual activity
- Filming a sexual assault
- Sharing images of a sexual assault
- Threatening to distribute nude or sexual images of another person, even if these images don’t actually exist
- Accessing another person’s personal computer files and stealing their intimate images.
Some facts about image-based abuse
- 1 in 5 Australians aged 16 to 49 have experienced some form of image-based abuse in their lifetime
- Women are more likely than men to experience some forms of image-based abuse
- Abusers are more likely to be male
- Image-based abuse is more commonly experienced by:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
- People with disability
- People who identify as LGBTQIA+
- Young people aged 16 to 29 years
- People who experience image-based abuse are almost twice as likely as those who haven’t experienced image-based abuse to report experiencing high levels of psychological distress, including symptoms of moderate to severe depression and anxiety, and feeling very fearful for their safety.
Image-based abuse is not your fault
Image-based abuse is not acceptable. It is a form of abuse and it is against the law. It doesn’t matter whether or not you give permission to share an image of yourself with another person. If that person has shared (or threatened to share) that image with others without your permission, they are to blame. They have betrayed your trust and broken the law. If you have experienced image-based abuse, it is not your fault.
Image-based abuse is against the law
While the specific laws relating to image-based abuse differ in each state and territory, the sharing of private sexual material without consent is a crime in Australia and you can report it to police. You can find out more on the eSafety Commissioner website.
Image-based abuse is not acceptable. It is a form of abuse and it is against the law. It doesn’t matter whether or not you give permission to share an image of yourself with another person.
What to do if you or someone you know has experienced image-based abuse
Support is available
If you or someone you know has experienced image-based abuse, you may want to get support. For confidential information, referral and counselling you can contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732.
Your doctor or GP can also refer you to a psychologist or counsellor if you would like emotional support.
Getting the image taken down
If you find an intimate image of yourself online, you can contact the website or the social media service and ask to have the images removed. Some sites have an image-removal request form that you can fill out. Facebook uses photo-matching software to detect and prevent the image from emerging again on Facebook after you make a formal complaint. You can also make a request to Google or Bing to have content involving you taken out of internet searches.
The Office of the eSafety Commissioner website provides support and resources on image-based abuse including:
- How to report an image to a social media service or website to request that your image be removed
- Information on collecting evidence of the abuse for the police
- How to find and delete images from online
You can also report image-based abuse to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner. They can provide assistance and support in relation to:
- Getting the image removed from social media or an app
- Getting the image removed from a website
- Helping in situations where an intimate image has been shared by email or text without your permission
- Guidance on how to communicate with someone who may have an intimate image of you to request they remove it.
This service is available to anyone who has experienced image-based abuse.