LIVING

Revenge Porn Affects 1 In 5 Australians, Says Study

05/08/2017 11:03 EDT | Updated 05/08/2017 11:03 EDT

One in five Australians have been a victim of image-based abuse, according to a comprehensive new study on "revenge porn."

The study, by RMIT University and Monash University, surveyed more than 4,200 Australians aged 16 to 49 and found women and men have an equal likelihood of being a victim of revenge porn and reporting it. The study also found perpetrators of image-based abuse are more likely to be male and known to the victim.

According to the results, one-fifth of the study participants had nude or sexual images taken without their permission, while 11 per cent said images of them were distributed without their consent.

man looking at computer

The study also found that gay, lesbian, and bisexual Australians are more likely to be victims of image-based abuse, while 1 in 2 Australians with a disability report being victims of revenge porn and 1 in 2 Indigenous Australians also report being victims of image-based abuse.

However, the study notes that the actual number of people who've experienced this kind of abuse could be higher because some people are unaware that their images are being distributed without their consent.

"Our study is also maybe an underestimate," said Dr Nicola Henry, the report's chief investigator, reports Mashable.

"Because our study only includes victims who've become aware that someone has taken or distributed of them, there are many victims who are not aware about image-based abuse against them — and they may never necessarily find out about it."

One fifth of the study participants had nude or sexual images taken without their permission.

Henry notes that Australia has a lack of criminal laws around revenge porn as only two states — Victoria and South Australia — have specific laws against distributing images without consent, reports the BBC.

"Image-based abuse has emerged so rapidly as an issue that inevitably our laws and policies are struggling to catch up," Henry said.

She continued: "This is not just about 'revenge porn' — images are being used to control, abuse and humiliate people in ways that go well beyond the 'relationship gone sour' scenario."

In Canada, revenge porn and cyberbullying laws vary by province and territory, however in 2015, Bill C-13, known more commonly as the cyberbullying act, came into effect across Canada. The law prohibits the non-consensual distribution of intimate images for people of all ages, with "intimate" being defined as one in which the subject is nude, partially nude, or engaged in explicit sexual activity.

"This is not just about 'revenge porn' — images are being used to control, abuse and humiliate people in ways that go well beyond the 'relationship gone sour' scenario."

Radio Canada International notes that revenge porn or "distribution of photos of an unknown person at a nude or topless beach, for example, becomes an offence without that person's direct consent."

A serious offence can result in a prison term of up to five years while a less serious offence can result in up to six months in jail and up to $5,000 in fines.

Last March, a Winnipeg man — Canada's first revenge porn convict — was sentenced to 90 days in jail after posting naked photos of his ex online after she admitted to cheating on him.