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Image-based sexual abuse: An international study of victims and perpetrators

Technical Report

Image-based sexual abuse: An international study of victims and perpetrators

Abstract

This 2020 report describes the key findings of a cross- national survey into image-based sexual abuse. This is a follow-up study to our 2016 Australian survey and extends the research to New Zealand and the United Kingdom. It provides data on respondents’ experiences of image- based sexual abuse victimisation as well as self-disclosed perpetration behaviours. At the time of writing, this research is the first cross-national survey into victimisation and perpetration of image-based sexual abuse.
Dr Anastasia Powell
Dr Adrian J. Scott
Dr Asher Flynn
Dr Nicola Henry
February 2020
Image-Based
Sexual Abuse:
An International Study of
Victims and Perpetrators
A SUMMARY REPORT
1
Experiences of Victimisation
Overall 1 in 3 respondents experienced image-based sexual abuse victimisation
Younger adults (20 to 29 years) are most commonly victims
Sexuality diverse groups experience higher victimisation
Ethnically diverse groups experience higher victimisation
Men’s and women’s victimisation differs in nature rather than extent
Self-Disclosed Perpetration
Overall 1 in 6 respondents had engaged in image-based sexual abuse perpetration
Men are more commonly perpetrators than women
Young people are more commonly perpetrators
Perpetrators have diverse motivations for abuse
Most common sites for distribution are social media, email and mobile messages
Dierent Dynamics of Image-Based Sexual Abuse
Most victims are targeted by known perpetrators
Women report greater negative impacts of victimisation than men
LGB+ women experienced greater health, relational and harassing impacts
Attitudes and Knowledge of the Law
Most respondents agree that image-based sexual abuse should be a crime in their country
Less than half of respondents were aware that image-based sexual abuse is a crime in their
country
Most respondents support bystander intervention when witnessing image-based sexual
abuse
A Growing Problem?
Our survey suggests image-based sexual abuse has increased in Australia since 2016
Non-consensual sharing and threats to share have almost doubled
Self-disclosed perpetration of image-based sexual abuse has also risen
Shifting practices in technology use, dating, sex and privacy play a role
Victim-blaming and minimisation of the impacts of image-based sexual abuse also to blame
KEY SURVEY FINDINGS
At a Glance
2
Linda’s Story
Linda (Australia) described discovering that she had
been raped by a former male partner, when several
friends told her that they had seen the footage:
My partner and me had been drinking and then he gave
me a bit of something else that I hadn’t ever had and,
basically, I was quite unconscious. He lmed a video of
us. I actually wasn’t aware of it at the time. I became
aware of it when my friends started talking to me about
this video that they’d all seen. So it turns out that he had
shared that video with his guy friends over a few drinks
and they were concerned and talked to me because they
were like, ‘you seemed completely out of it and actually
unaware of this so we wanted to let you know because
it’s a pretty awful video’. A bit later down the track he
was trying to blackmail me … He threatened if I didn’t let
him [stay at my house] that he was going to send that
video to my parents.
Not Just ‘Revenge Pornography’
In 2017, we released the report Not Just ‘Revenge
Pornography’ which provided key ndings from a victimisation
survey of Australian residents (16 to 49 years) conducted
by members of our research team in 2016.1 In that earlier
research, we asked Australian respondents whether they
had ever experienced an incident where someone had
taken, shared, or threatened to share, a nude, semi-nude or
sexual image of them without their permission and across a
range of circumstances. In other words, we asked whether
they had ever experienced image-based sexual abuse.
Image-based sexual abuse is dened as the non-consensual
taking, sharing or threats to share nude or sexual images
(photos or videos) of a person.2 It also includes digitally altered
imagery in which a person’s face or body is superimposed
or ‘stitched into’ a pornographic photo or video, known as
‘fake pornography’ (including ‘deepfakes’ when synthetic
images are created using articial intelligence).3
Often referred to as ‘non-consensual pornography’ or
‘revenge porn’, image-based sexual abuse is an invasion of
a person’s privacy and a violation of their human rights to
dignity, sexual autonomy and freedom of expression.4
Though the popular term ‘revenge porn’ implies that the
non-consensual sharing of nude or sexual images is based
on the spiteful actions of jilted ex-lovers, research has found
that the motivations for these behaviours – and the impacts
on victims – are far more varied. For instance, image-based
sexual abuse is used by perpetrators of domestic violence
who attempt to coercively control a current or former
intimate partner.5 Police and service providers have also
described to us how images are used to threaten victims
of sexual and domestic violence in order to prevent them
from seeking help or reporting to police.6 In other cases,
nude or sexual images have been used as a form of bullying
and harassment, particularly among younger people. This
can have severe impacts on a victim’s mental well-being,
sometimes tragically resulting in self-harm.
While no terminology is perfect, we prefer the term ‘image-
based sexual abuse’ because it better captures this diversity
of behaviours, the nature and harms experienced by many
victim-survivors, a much broader array of perpetrator
motivations, as well as a range of digital devices and
platforms that are used to abuse.
This 2020 report describes the key ndings of a cross-
national survey into image-based sexual abuse. This is a
follow-up study to our 2016 Australian survey and extends
the research to New Zealand and the United Kingdom. It
provides data on respondents’ experiences of image-
based sexual abuse victimisation as well as self-disclosed
perpetration behaviours. At the time of writing, this research
is the rst cross-national survey into victimisation and
perpetration of image-based sexual abuse.
Study Background
The focus of this summary report is foremost on the
ndings of a cross-national survey conducted in 2019. In
total, there were 6,109 respondents aged 16 to 64 years
across Australia (n=2,054), New Zealand (n=2,027) and the
United Kingdom (n=2,028). Overall, 52.1% of respondents
identied as female and 47.9% as male. Most respondents
(88.9%) identied as heterosexual, while 11.1% identied as
sexuality diverse including lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB+).7
With regard to age: 6.1% of respondents were 16-19
years; 23.1% were 20-29 years; 25.9% were 30-39 years;
18.6% were 40-49 years; and 26.3% were 50-64 years.
Finally, 73.6% of respondents identied as White/European/
Pakeha, while 26.4% represented ethnically diverse groups
including indigenous, as well as Black, Asian and minority
ethnicities (BAME).
All respondents were recruited by Qualtrics Panels, an
online panel provider, and informed that the purpose of the
research was to examine attitudes and experiences of sex,
3
technology, and relationships. The research was approved by
the RMIT Human Ethics Committee and followed guidelines
as prescribed by the Australian National Statement on
Ethical Conduct in Human Research.
Consistent with our previous research into image-based
sexual abuse,8 we developed a survey instrument that
comprised a range of items including those pertaining to:
(1) demographic characteristics; (2) sexual image-based
abuse myth acceptance; (3) online dating behaviours; (4)
sexual self-image behaviours; (5) image-based sexual abuse
victimization; (6) image-based sexual abuse perpetration;
and (7) attitudes and knowledge of law.
The broader project also involved qualitative interviews with
victim-survivors in Australia, New Zealand and the United
Kingdom, which are discussed in greater depth in a report
released in 2019.9 In total, 75 participants were recruited
for semi-structured interviews in person or via Skype, with
25 from each country. For the purposes of this report,
some quotes from victim-survivors who were interviewed
for the project have been included, with pseudonyms used
to protect their anonymity. These quotes provide further
context into the nature and ongoing harms associated with
image-based sexual abuse victimisation.
Key Survey Findings
Far from its popular characterisation as typically an act of
‘revenge’ perpetrated by men against their women ex-
partners, our survey indicates that image-based sexual
abuse encompasses a diverse set of relational contexts,
harms, as well as an array of dierential victim impacts.
Notably, the survey found that overall victimisation rates are
not markedly dierent according respondent gender, with
males and females reporting similar overall frequency of
victimisation. However, when contexts, harms and impacts
are considered, there are signicant dierences according
to respondent gender and other characteristics of inequality
and/or privilege. In particular, there are distinct ways in
which women experience image-based sexual abuse in
the context of multiple experiences of interpersonal harm
and victimisation, including stalking, sexual violence and/or
intimate partner abuse situations.
Patterns of image-based sexual abuse victimisation also dier
for: younger as compared with older respondents; sexuality-
diverse as compared with heterosexual respondents; and
ethnically diverse as compared with White/European/
Pakeha respondents.
Experiences of Victimisation
1 in 3 Respondents Have Experienced Image-Based
Sexual Abuse
Based on our survey, we found that image-based sexual
abuse is pervasive. Overall, 1 in 3 respondents had
experienced at least one form of image-based sexual abuse
victimisation (37.7%) and these ndings were comparable
across Australia (35.2%), New Zealand (39.0%) and the
United Kingdom (39.0%). This included:
1 in 3 respondents who reported that someone had
taken a nude or sexual image of them without their
consent (33.2%)
1 in 5 who reported that someone had shared a nude
or sexual image of them without their consent (20.9%),
and
Almost 1 in 5 who reported that someone had
threatened to share a nude or sexual image of them
(18.7%)
We also found that 1 in 7 of those surveyed had experienced
all three forms of image-based sexual abuse (14.1%).
Our survey ndings showed a clear intersection of
marginalisation experienced by victim-survivors, particularly
in relation to age, sexuality, ethnicity and indigeneity, as
discussed below.
Age Images Taken Images Shared Images Threatened One or more (Any)
16-19 37.5% 27.9% 27.9% 45.3%
20-29 43.9% 32.1% 29.9% 50.7%
30-39 39.5% 26.8% 23.8% 44.5%
40-49 30.4% 15.9% 13.0% 33.6%
50-64 18.7% 7.2% 5.7% 21.0%
Table: Image-Based Sexual Abuse Victimisation by Age
4
Younger Adults (20 to 29 years) are More Commonly
Victims
Our survey found signicant dierences according to age
with younger respondents more likely than older respondents
to report experiencing one or more forms of image-based
sexual abuse. Overall, 1 in 2 (47.2%) respondents aged 16-
39 years had experienced one or more form of image-based
sexual abuse compared with 1 in 4 (26.2%) respondents
aged 40-64 years.
Although the victimisation rate among adolescents (16-19
years) remains high, they were not the highest represented
group in our survey. The ndings indicate rather that young
adults aged 20 to 29 years are the most likely age-group to
be victims of image-based sexual abuse.
Overall, our survey ndings support engagement in school-
based education programming to address image-based
sexual abuse among adolescents and provide support for
younger victims. In addition, interventions are needed to
target those adults in their 20s.
Zahira’s Story
Zahira (New Zealand) told us about how when she was in
high school an image she had shared with a male partner
was sent around the entire school via text message:
I was dating a guy and we’d been dating for about two
months and I cringe to look back on. I guess it was the
thing to do, like you shared nudes with your partner
or boyfriend, and we broke up. … We didn’t end on
very good terms, and I didn’t think that he would, so I
wasn’t too worried, but, you know, it was almost, like,
trendy, I guess, to kind of send your ex’s photos around
the school. … I didn’t think that he would do it though,
because I didn’t think that he was that kind of person.
But he did … everyone kind of got my photo during
class.
Sexuality Diverse Groups Experience Higher
Victimisation
There were signicant dierences according to sexuality
with LGB+ respondents signicantly more likely than
heterosexual respondents to report having experienced all
forms of image-based sexual abuse.
We found 1 in 2 (56.4%) LGB+ respondents had experienced
one or more form of image-based sexual abuse compared
with 1 in 3 (35.4%) heterosexual respondents.
Although international evidence is limited, some previous
research has likewise indicated higher rates of sexual
violence and harassment perpetrated against sexuality
diverse, as well as transgender, intersex and gender-queer
people.10 As such, our survey ndings may reect these
broader patterns of marginalisation and sexuality-based
harassment experienced by many LGBTIQ people in the
countries studied.
Kyle’s Story
Kyle (Australia) described how his Facebook account
was hacked by a former male partner and his prole
picture was changed to an intimate image:
[I got] a call from my best friend who at the time had
recently relocated... He never calls me. He doesn’t do
phone calls, so it was a bit weird. So, he called me up,
and he said, ‘What have you done with your Facebook
page?’ I’m just like, ‘What are you talking about?’ … He’s
like, ‘Yeah, okay, I didn’t think it was you, you might want
to check it out’. …There was a nude picture of me using
a sex toy on myself as the display picture on Facebook.
I couldn’t get into [my account], which I thought was
really quite odd. I just was in shock and horror. … [I was]
totally mortied.
Ethnically Diverse Groups Experience Higher
Victimisation
It is noteworthy that Australian respondents identifying
as Indigenous were signicantly more likely than non-
Indigenous respondents to report having experienced all
forms of image-based sexual abuse. For example, 2 in 3
(65.6%) Indigenous respondents had experienced one or
more form of image-based sexual abuse compared with 1 in
3 (34.3%) non-Indigenous respondents.
Although the overall trend was non-signicant in New
Zealand and the United Kingdom, there were signicant
dierences in all three countries regarding respondents who
reported having experienced all three forms of image-based
sexual abuse. In Australia, 1 in 3 (35.9%) of Indigenous
respondents had experienced all three forms of image-
based sexual abuse compared with 1 in 8 (12.2%) non-
Indigenous respondents. The equivalent percentages were
1 in 4 (28.4%) for Māori respondents and 1 in 7 (13.9%)
for non-Māori respondents in New Zealand, and almost 1
in 4 (23.7%) for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME)
respondents compared with 1 in 8 (12.5%) for non-BAME
respondents in the United Kingdom.
5
These ndings are perhaps not surprising in light of previous
research into sexual abuse more broadly which has found
that women from racial minority groups, such as Indigenous
women and BAME women, face a much higher risk of
exposure to sexual violence, suer more severe forms
of abuse, and face culturally specic barriers to seeking
support.11
Fatima’s Story
Fatima (United Kingdom), like many victims, described
how since the material was ‘out there’, beyond her
control and constantly available to be viewed and re-
shared there was really no end to the impact of the
abuse:
It is permanent ... and so people know it, you can’t not
know it. … Maybe you could have something happen to
you that was traumatic, but you don’t have to necessarily
feel like you’re dened by it for the rest of your life. But
with this, there’s such a level of permanence which
aects everything especially if it’s impossible now to
take photos down, especially if it’s impossible to stop
the dissemination of the images. … There will never be a
day in my entire lifetime that all of the images of me could
ever be deleted.
It is so harmful and isolating… especially getting hate
[online and] from ‘friends’ who don’t want to associate
with you … because you’re associated with something
[they perceive to be] explicit and gross…
Men’s and Women’s Victimisation Diers in Nature
Rather than Extent
The overall rates of image-based sexual abuse victimisation
did not dier greatly by gender, with similar rates for both
women (38.1%) and men (37.4%). However, there were
nonetheless dierent dynamics and impacts of image-based
sexual abuse according to gender, as well as signicant
dierences in perpetration (which we discuss further below).
Women victims (11.7%) were signicantly more likely than
men (4.8%) to report that the same perpetrator of their most
signicant experience of image-based sexual abuse had
also made them feel afraid for their safety. There was also
an overall trend whereby women were more likely to report
multiple forms of abuse from the same perpetrator of the
image-based sexual abuse relative to men.12
Rachel’s Story
Rachel (New Zealand), discovered that her partner had
been secretly lming sexual encounters or intimate,
private moments:
He was really into secretly lming us when we were
having sex. So, quite a few times I would, sort of, turn
around and see that he was lming, and then I would
grab his phone and take it o him, delete the thing and
say, ‘You can’t do that. That’s totally not allowed’. …
There was also an incident, too, where I was in the
shower and he was lming me without me knowing, and
I pulled a tampon out to go and put it in the bathroom,
and he lmed the whole thing, and I got mad at him for
that. He said he was going to delete it, but that was one
of the videos that he threatened me with, as well, in the
end.
Importantly, similar ndings in relation to the gendered nature
of image-based sexual abuse are beginning to emerge in
other research, although the rates vary from study to study.
Some research has found that women are more likely to
be the victims of image-based sexual abuse, especially
adolescent and young adult women.13 Whilst other studies
have found that victimisation rates appear similar for both
male and female victims.14 This suggests that further research
into the complexity of image-based sexual abuse in relation
to its gendered extent, nature and impacts is needed.
Females Males Overall
I did not experience other unwanted or harmful behaviours from this same person 40.8% 40.4% 40.6%
The same person engaged in image-based abuse more than once 17.7% 24.5% 20.8%
The same person kept contacting me after I asked them to stop 30.5% 25.6% 28.2%
The same person also made other threats of harm towards me 18.4% 13.8% 16.3%
The same person tried to control/limit my behaviour 22.1% 15.0% 18.8%
The same person physically hurt me 10.1% 6.1% 8.3%
The same person made me feel afraid for my safety 11.7% 4.8% 8.5%
Table: Co-occurrence of Abuse, Victims by Gender
6
Men are more Commonly Perpetrators than Women
There was a clear gendered pattern of ndings whereby 1
in 5 men (22.3%) reported having engaged in one or more
image-based perpetration behaviour, as compared with 1 in
8 women (13.1%).
It is important to consider how the perpetration of image-
based sexual abuse sits within broader patterns of gendered
violence, not solely based on who the victim-survivor is,
but also the way in which the perpetrator is conforming to
particular gendered norms in engaging in this behaviour.
Alice’s Story
Alice (New Zealand) discovered through a female friend
that both of their images, and the images of other
women, were part of a collection that their partners had
been ‘pooling’ together within their all male friendship
group:
Unbeknown to my friend and I … she found on her
boyfriend’s laptop, pictures of me, her and another friend
and she was also being taped in the shower. … That’s
how I found out about it, through her. That they were,
I guess, pooling these images … which made me feel
quite sick. … I would say there would be at least 20
[photos] that I had taken but there would probably be
maybe, at least that many more that he’d taken. Maybe
40, I don’t know, I didn’t keep track.
For some men, image-based sexual abuse perpetration
occurs within a context of broader male peer support15 for
sexual harassment and abuse. This trend is further evident
in a recent study that involved 16 interviews with image-
based abuse perpetrators. The study found that for many
perpetrators, image-based sexual abuse is untroubling and
normative within a context of male bonding and homosociality,
through peer-to-peer competition and identication.16
Young People are More Commonly Perpetrators
There were signicant dierences for age across all forms of
image-based sexual abuse perpetration. Overall respondents
aged 16-39 years (23.2%) were more likely than respondents
aged 40-64 years (10.6%) to report engaging in one or more
form of image-based sexual abuse.
Males Images Taken Images Shared Images Threatened One or more (Any)
16-19 26.6% 21.5% 19.8% 28.8%
20-29 30.6% 23.4% 19.5% 33.5%
30-39 28.1% 21.8% 18.6% 29.9%
40-49 16.3% 10.5% 9.8% 17.2%
50-64 10.2% 3.8% 2.3% 11.4%
Females Images Taken Images Shared Images Threatened One or more (Any)
16-19 14.8% 13.3% 9.7% 16.3%
20-29 18.0% 11.9% 10.8% 20.4%
30-39 12.3% 8.4% 6.3% 14.1%
40-49 7.5% 3.9% 2.8% 9.1%
50-64 4.5% 1.0% 0.4% 5.2%
Table: Image-Based Sexual Abuse Perpetration by Age and Gender
IBSA Perpetrators by Gender
7
There were also important patterns in perpetration when
examining both age and gender, as young men were more
likely to self-disclose engaging in each type of image-based
sexual abuse, as well as any and all forms of these harms,
as shown in the table below.
These ndings clearly demonstrate the importance of
working with young men in order to respond to and prevent
image-based sexual abuse.
Perpetrators have Diverse Motivations for Abuse
We asked survey respondents who reported having taken,
shared and/or threatened to share nude or sexual images to
indicate their motivations for each of the three behaviours.
Respondents selected how much they agreed that the
following motivations reected their experience: for fun, to
irt or be sexy, to impress friends, to maintain relationships,
to obtain attention, for revenge or to get back at the person,
to embarrass the person, to control the person, for nancial
gain or to obtain further images.
It was very common for perpetrators of image-based sexual
abuse to describe their motivations as for ‘fun’ or to ‘irt’ or
be ‘sexy’ (61.2% for taking; 58.0% for sharing; 55.8% for
threatening).
Other motivations included wanting to ‘impress friends’ and/
or ‘trade the images’ (37.8% for taking; 54.9% for sharing;
54.9% for threatening); and wanting to ‘control the person
in the image’ (45.0% for taking; 57.1% for sharing; 63.2%
for threatening).
Finally, respondents reported being motivated to ‘embarrass’
and/or ‘get back at the person’ depicted in the image (38.0%
for taking; 51.7% for sharing; 61.4% for threatening).17
These ndings show a range of diverse motivations for
engaging in image-based sexual abuse that extend well
beyond those of the ‘vengeful’ or ‘jilted’ ex-partner. In some
cases, perpetrators reported motivations which appeared
to be less about personally targeting a specic victim and
more about their own capacity to either make money or gain
status (such as in responses of to ‘trade the images’, or to
‘impress friends’).
Jordan’s Story
Jordan (New Zealand) was victimised in a sextortion
scam, in which the perpetrator threatened to share his
image unless he paid them $200 (USD):
I found one person, who’s an attractive woman, and
talked for an hour with no hint of sexual stu, nothing, it
was just a convo [conversation]. And then she said, ‘Do
you want to talk on Skype?’ … So, I went quickly and
made a new email address and a new Skype account
and linked my Skype account to a new email address,
so it’d be completely untraceable, in theory, back to me
or so I thought. So Skyped for a bit, chatted for a bit.
Probably two and a half hours of chatting at this point.
And then she tried to step it up to something sexual,
which I wasn’t entirely comfortable with. She revealed
herself on camera. Exposed her breasts and stu. …
And so, she asked me to show my penis on camera.
So, I did. And that was really that, there was nothing
else. At which point she probably shot o the camera as
soon as I exposed myself and then sent me my full name
and a list of my friends from Facebook. …They asked
for money.
The survey ndings on perpetrator motivations also suggest
that those engaging in these behaviours may not fully
understand or even give thought to the potentially very
harmful impact upon victims.
Importantly, there appears to be a tendency among
perpetrators not to recognise image-based sexual abuse
as harmful, when they are also commonly describing their
motivations as for ‘fun’ or to ‘irt’ or be ‘sexy’. Crucially
these ndings are at odds with what many victim-survivors
describe as serious and lasting impacts of image-based
sexual abuse, as described in the excerpts throughout this
report.
Most Common Sites for Distribution are Social Media,
Email and Mobile Messages
Overall, perpetrators of image-based sexual abuse
commonly reporting having shared nude or sexual images
on social media (such as 26.1% who said they shared
images on Facebook, and 17.9% on Instagram), via email
(18.5%), via mobile messaging or chat applications (17.9%),
or via mobile phone messages (15.6%).18 These ndings
suggest that many image-based sexual abuse perpetrators
share the images where they will be observed by a victims’
social network, in turn indicating motivations to cause harm
to victims.
Less commonly reported by perpetrators was sharing
image-based sexual abuse imagery on pornography
websites (14.0%), anonymous communities such as Reddit
(6.3%), or specic ‘revenge porn’ websites (5.4%). Indeed,
research suggests that there are many less public sites
8
where image-based sexual abuse material is shared by
perpetrators, meaning that many victims may never discover
that their nude or sexual imagery has been shared without
their consent.19
Dierent Dynamics of Image-Based Sexual
Abuse
Of those respondents who had experienced at least one
form of image-based sexual abuse, we asked them for
further information about their most signicant victimisation
experience.
More than 1 in 3 (39.5%) of this subgroup of victims reported
that their most signicant experience had involved all three
forms of image-based sexual abuse: taking nude or sexual
images of a person without consent, sharing images without
consent, or threatening to share images.
Stephen’s Story
Stephen (United Kingdom) discovered around 20 or
so naked images had been taken of him by his former
female atmate without his knowledge or consent:
Like there’s me sleeping on the bed when I’m sick. There’s
me in the shower. There’s – the most embarrassing of
them all is like I’m in the shower, but I’m bent over and
it’s like the most, you know, visual shot that you can
possibly imagine and it’s obvious it’s me. I mean you can
see my face. You could see everything … [I had] no idea
how she was able to be in a position to take them…
[It’s] having this continuing threat that the images could
be re-shared, or re-emerge online, that new people
could see these intimate images. … And I think it’s the
unknowing; that not knowing aspect that you have to
deal with every day.
Most Victims are Targeted by Known Perpetrators
Overall, a majority of victims of image-based sexual abuse
reported that the perpetrator had been a partner or former
partner (60.9%), or another known person (28.5%), with
victimisation by strangers or unknown people comparatively
less common (10.6%).
A similar pattern of targeting known victims was reported
by perpetrators of image-based sexual abuse, whereby a
majority of those who had taken a nude or sexual image
of another person without permission (63.0%), who had
shared a nude or sexual image without permission (52.1%),
or who had made threats to share (51.2%) reported that the
victim was a partner or former partner.
Women Report Greater Negative Impacts of
Victimisation than Men
We asked victims of image-based sexual abuse about a
range of negative impacts including negative feelings, health
impacts (including mental health), reputational concerns and
relational impacts.
A majority of victims (86.2%) reported experiencing many
negative feelings as a consequence of image-based sexual
abuse (‘somewhat’ ‘or ‘very much’ to one or more feelings
items), and 13.8% of respondents did not experience
negative feelings (‘neutral’, ‘not at all’ or ‘not really’ to all
feeling items).20 Overall, women were much more likely to
report experiencing negative feelings (92.1%) as compared
with men (75.9%).
Many respondents (55.1%) reported experiencing negative
health impacts as a result of the abuse, as well as reputational
concerns (78.8%), and impacts on their relationships with
others (55.7%). Again, negative health impacts were greater
for women (61.0%) as compared with men (45.1%. Women
(74.0%) were also much more likely than men (59.1%) to
report experiencing reputational concerns as a result of the
abuse. There were further dierences by gender for relational
impacts, with women (59.6%) more likely than men (48.8%)
to report experiencing these impacts.
LGB+ Women Experienced Greater Health, Relational
and Harassing Impacts
Our survey found that LGB+ women victims of image-based
sexual abuse were more likely to report greater health impacts
(70.7%), as compared with heterosexual women (58.2%)
and men (50.0% LGB+, 43.6% heterosexual), as a result
of the image-based sexual abuse. Likewise, more LGB+
women reported negative impacts on their relationships
with others (74.4%), as compared with heterosexual women
(55.4%), and men (50.0% LGB+, 48.5% heterosexual).
More LGB+ women also reported experiencing greater
subsequent harassment (50.0%) as compared with
heterosexual women (34.1%). There were also notable trends
9
whereby LGB+ women reported experiencing concerns for
their safety (80.5%), and reputational concerns (86.6%), at
seemingly higher rates than did heterosexual men (57.1%
and 70.6% respectively) and LGB+ men (65.4% and 76.9%
respectively).a
These survey ndings suggest that there is an interaction of
sexuality and gender such that LGB+ women experience
greater health and relational impacts as well as subsequent
harassment as a result of image-based sexual abuse.
Attitudes and Knowledge of the Law
Most Respondents Agree that Image-Based Sexual
Abuse Should be a Crime in their Country
We asked respondents whether they thought it should be a
crime to take nude and/or sexual images without a person’s
consent, to share such images without consent, and to
threaten to share nude and/or sexual images of a person.
There was overwhelming community support in all countries
for each of these behaviours to be criminal oences: 80.0%
agreed (images taken); 83.2% agreed (images shared); and
81.8% agreed (images threatened).
Overall, women were signicantly more likely to support
criminal oences compared with men (85.6% vs. 73.9%
for images taken; 88.1% vs. 77.8% for images shared;
and 86.2% vs. 77.0% for images threatened). A similar
trend was observed between heterosexual and LGB+
respondents, with higher levels of support for criminalisation
among heterosexual respondents compared with LGB+
respondents (81.1% vs. 70.8% for images taken; 84.1% vs.
75.6% for images shared; and 82.5% vs. 75.8% for images
threatened). The highest levels of support for criminal
oences by key respondent demographics were among
those aged 50 to 64 years (87.7% for images taken, 91.2%
for images shared; and 89.2% for images threatened).
Not unsurprisingly, we found that those who had engaged
in image-based sexual abuse behaviours themselves were
less supportive of criminal laws than those who had not.
Across the whole sample, however, it was apparent that
there is strong community support for treating image-based
sexual abuse seriously through criminal justice responses;
and similar levels of support for criminalising each of taking
nude or sexual images of a person without consent, or share
such images without consent, or to threaten to share nude
and/or sexual images of a person.
Less than Half of Respondents were Aware that
Image-Based Sexual Abuse is a Crime in their Country
Overall, we found that there was a lack of awareness among
our respondents about whether image-based sexual abuse
is currently a crime in their country.
Less than half (45.7%) of respondents believed that it is
currently a crime to take images without consent in their
country, 15.1% said that they do not think it is a crime, and
39.2% said that they do not know. Likewise, less than half
(48.7%) of respondents believed that it is currently a crime
to share images without consent in their country, 13.4% said
they do not think it is a crime, and 38.0% said that they do
not know. Finally, 40.5% of respondents believed that it is
currently a crime to threaten to share images of a person in
their country, 16.5% said they do not think it is a crime, and
43.0% said they do not know.
These ndings are concerning. In Australia, there are criminal
oences at the federal (national) as well as state and territory
levels criminalising the taking, sharing, and threats to share
nude, sexual or ‘intimate’ images without consent in every
jurisdiction except Tasmania. In New Zealand, it is a criminal
oence to post a harmful digital communication, which
includes intimate visual recordings (e.g. photos, videos or
digital images) that are created and/or published without
the knowledge or consent of the individual who is depicted
in the recording. And in the United Kingdom, there are a
number of laws targeted at specic instances of image-
based sexual abuse in England and Wales, Scotland and
Northern Ireland. As such, it is concerning that approximately
half of respondents in each of Australia, New Zealand and
the United Kingdom were not aware of the criminal nature
of these harms.
Most Respondents Support Bystander Intervention
when Witnessing Image-Based Sexual Abuse
We asked respondents a set of questions to gauge their
support for intervening as bystanders should they witness
image-based sexual abuse, as well as whether they felt they
would have the support of the peers for stepping in.
Our survey found that over 2 in 3 of our respondents (67.5%)
across all three countries reported that they either would say
a These results were notable, though not statistically signicant, which may
in turn be an artefact of small sample sizes for these groups. This highlights
the importance of qualitative research and targeted survey sampling
methods for sexuality minorities in order to ensure their experiences of
harassment and abuse are properly recognised.
10
or do something to express their disapproval, or would like
to say or do something (but did not know how), if someone
showed or sent them a nude or sexual image of another
person without that person’s consent. Female respondents
(77.9%) were much more likely than male respondents
(56.3%) to say that they would, or would like to, take action.
A majority of survey respondents (60.2%) also reported that
they believed they would have the support of most or all
of their friends for saying or doing something to express
disapproval, and a further 1 in 5 (19.1%) reported that they
would have the support of some or a few of their friends
for taking such actions, if someone showed or sent them
a nude or sexual image of another person without that
person’s consent. Once again, there were signicant
gender dierences, with 2 in 3 female respondents (65.9%)
compared with 1 in 2 males (54.1%) reporting that they felt
they would have the support of all or most of their friends for
taking action as a bystander.
We further asked respondents whether someone had ever
actually shown or sent them a nude or sexual image of another
person without that person’s consent. Approximately 1 in
4 (26.4%) of our respondents reported this had happened
to them at least once. This was somewhat higher for men
(29.9%) than for women (23.1%) and was highest among
younger respondents (42.4% of those aged 16 to 19 years,
39% of those aged 20 to 29 years, and 31.6% of those aged
30 to 39 years), as well as for LGB+ respondents (41.2%) as
compared with heterosexual respondents (24.5%).
Finally, of these respondents who had the opportunity to
intervene as bystanders, we asked if they did actually say
or do something when this last happened. Just under half
of those respondents (46.1%) who had the opportunity to
intervene did so. Actual bystander action was much higher
for women (54.9%) than for men (38.9%), as well as among
LGB+ respondents (50.0%) as compared to heterosexual
respondents (45.3%).
Overall, these bystander ndings suggest that a majority of
survey respondents believe that the sharing of a nude or
sexual image without a person’s consent is a serious enough
harm to warrant individuals taking action to intervene. Yet
not everyone is condent enough to take action in practice.
Individuals might therefore benet from being equipped with
the tools and condence to step in and say or do something
when they witness image-based sexual abuse occurring.
A Growing Problem?
Our Survey suggests Image-Based Sexual Abuse has
Increased in Australia since 2016
This report has outlined key ndings from our research across
Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. However,
we conducted a comparable survey with a substantial
Australian sample in 2016, using many of the same survey
items and a comparable survey methodology. As such, our
2019 survey has also revealed some interesting trends in
the Australian respondents we have surveyed about their
experiences of image-based sexual abuse.
Overall, it appears that image-based sexual abuse may have
increased in Australia since our last survey. In 2016 we found
that 1 in 5 (22.7%) of respondents had experienced at least
one form of image-based sexual abuse. In 2019, that gure
had risen to 1 in 3 (37.7%).
Non-Consensual Sharing and Threats to Share have
Almost Doubled
A greater proportion of respondents in our 2019 survey
disclosed ever having experienced one of more forms of
image-based sexual abuse, as shown in the gure below.
The greatest increases in victimisation are in the non-
consensual sharing of nude or sexual images, and threats to
share nude or sexual images.
2016 and 2019 Australian IBSA victimisation data
11
Self-Disclosed Perpetration of Image-Based Sexual
Abuse has also Risen
Rates of self-disclosed perpetration of image-based sexual
abuse have also increased between those respondents
surveyed in 2016, and those responding to our 2019 survey,
as shown below.
For perpetration, the greatest increases are in the non-
consensual taking of nude or sexual images, and the non-
consensual sharing of nude or sexual images.
Shifting Practices in Technology Use, Dating, Sex and
Privacy Play a Role
It is dicult to say exactly what is driving these increases
in image-based sexual abuse. Our previous research21 has
shown that individuals who have consensually shared nude
or sexual images with a partner are more likely to experience
image-based sexual abuse victimisation. Importantly
though, our ndings also demonstrate that even those who
have never consensually shared a nude or sexual self-image
can still be victims of the taking nude or sexual images of a
person without consent, the sharing such images without
consent, or the threatening to share nude and/or sexual
images. In short, individuals can become victims of image-
based sexual abuse whether they themselves consensually
take sexual seles or not.
However it appears that between our 2016 and 2019
Australian surveys, there is little evidence of increases
in consensual nude or sexual image-taking and sharing
behaviours, as shown in the table below.
This suggests is that it is not necessarily the case that
increases in image-based sexual abuse victimisation are
a consequence of increases in consensual nude or sexual
image sharing.
Rather, our research suggests that image-based sexual
abuse may be increasing due to a lack of understanding in
the general community of the seriousness of the associated
harms, and the consent and privacy of victims not being
given due attention by perpetrators. It is also possible that
increases in victimisation of image-based sexual abuse are
related to the passage of time, with more people becoming
aware that their nude or sexual images have been shared
without their permission since 2016. Though the comparable
rises in self-disclosed perpetration of image-based sexual
abuse suggest that more people are engaging in these
harmful behaviours overall.
Victim-Blaming and Minimisation of the Impacts of
Image-Based Sexual Abuse also to Blame
Technology and an associated increased practice of sexual
self-imagery may play a role in enabling greater access to
victims, but ultimately it is the individual who chooses to
take, share, or threaten to share, nude or sexual images
without consent who is at fault.
Our ndings demonstrate that perpetrators are more likely
than other survey respondents to hold attitudes minimising
the harms of image-based sexual abuse, and that place the
blame onto victims.
2016 (% yes, ever) 2019 (% yes, ever)
Sent someone you just met a nude or sexual photo or video 23.3% 22.3%
Let a sexual partner or date take a nude or sexual photo or video of you 29.9% 28.2%
Sent a nude or sexual image (photo or video) of yourself to a sexual partner 37.3% 37.3%
Make a nude or sexy video with a sexual partner 27.2% 27.1%
Table: Consensual nude and sexual image behaviours, Australia
2016 and 2019 Australian IBSA perpetration data
12
Recommendations
Prevention through Community Education
Given the higher observation of image-based sexual abuse
sharing behaviour among men and younger respondents,
these ndings suggest that such groups are particularly
important subpopulations to work with in education
and prevention interventions. In particular, incorporating
bystander awareness and intervention training into school-
based sex and relationship education programming may go
some way towards addressing the peer support elements to
image-based sexual abuse, particularly among young men.
Our ndings have also demonstrated a substantial lack of
awareness in the general community, across each of the
three countries studied, as to the current criminal nature of
image-based sexual abuse behaviours. This suggests that
broader community awareness-raising and legal education
may be warranted to help address the issue now, as well as
preventing its high prevalence for future young adults.
Victim Support
Our research into image-based sexual abuse highlights
the diverse range of contexts, impacts and experiences of
victimisation. For some victims, image-based sexual abuse
is a tool used by perpetrators of domestic violence, sexual
assault and stalking as a way to coerce and control the
victim. For other victims, nude and sexual images are used
in peer and other known networks as a form of bullying and/
or harassment. And for other victims, strangers attempt
to blackmail and/or extort money through the threatened
sharing of nude or sexual images as a particularly malicious
form of cyber-attack.
While each of these contexts can present many severe
harms and lasting impacts for victims, it is also important
that support services and legal practitioners are equipped
to recognise and respond appropriately to the dierent
presentations of image-based sexual abuse. For example, it
is particularly vital that domestic violence and sexual assault
counsellors and legal advisors receive up-to-date training
on the ongoing nature of these harms for victims and the
actions that can be taken to address and attempt to limit the
continuation of the image-based sexual abuse which may
also be associated with additional stalking, physical and
emotional violence.
Among the key ndings from our qualitative interviews in
particular, has been the continuing nature of the harms of
image-based sexual abuse, as victim-survivors live with an
ongoing fear that the images will re-emerge and continue to
be re-shared. This highlights the importance of image take-
down assistance, such as that oered by the Oce of the
eSafety Commissioner in Australia, as for some victims there
will be a recurring need for support and advice.
Criminal and Civil Law Reform
Despite signicant criminal law reform in countries such
as Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, as well
as the United States and Canada, inevitably the law is still
playing catch-up to properly address the harms of image-
based sexual abuse. One of the key reasons for this is the
failure of laws to capture all forms of image-based sexual
abuse. For example, the current laws in England and Wales
do not capture digitally manipulated images or ‘deepfakes’.
Furthermore, there are restrictive requirements in some
jurisdictions like England and Wales and New Zealand that
the perpetrator intended to cause harm or distress to the
victim. This is problematic for several reasons including
that it is dicult to dene or quantify distress, and people
dier considerably within the community about what would
and would not cause distress. It also places victimisation
experiences on a hierarchy. Further, the harm may not be
measurable or felt by the victim at the time the oence is
dealt with by the criminal justice system. It also means that
prosecutions may not be able to occur where a victim is
unaware their image has been shared, for example, where
it has been traded privately or on a dedicated voyeurism
website, and therefore the victim may not technically
have experienced distress. Finally, as our data shows,
perpetrators of image-based sexual abuse have diverse
motivations, which are not always about revenge or causing
harm. Thus, while some perpetrators intend to cause the
victim distress, others are motivated by other factors such as
sexual gratication, monetary gain, or social status building.
Requiring an intent to cause distress means such diverse
motivations are not captured in the laws.
Australia has some of the most advanced legislative
responses to image-based sexual abuse globally. In nearly all
jurisdictions, including at the federal level, following a public
consultation period, legislators closely followed the advice
and guidance from victim/survivors, academics, domestic
and sexual violence support services, legal practitioners
and others. This has meant that Australian jurisdictions have
avoided many of the problems that have been identied
in relation to international jurisdictions where the laws are
restrictive and fail to provide justice to people who have
experienced image-based sexual abuse. Problems in many
other jurisdictions include the failure to cover either digitally
altered images or threats to share nude or sexual images.
13
Some model examples of recent laws in Australia that are
compressive and inclusive include NSW and the ACT, as
well as the federal Australian Civil Penalty Scheme that is
administered by the Oce of the eSafety Commissioner.
In all countries, there is still a way to go in relation to
education, police and criminal justice agency training, and
prevention.
Amara’s Story
Amara (Australia) found that people she did not know
had created digitally altered non-intimate images of her
by superimposing her face onto pornographic images
and posting these online:
People had been following me on social media and stealing
or lifting … photos [of me] – ordinary photos of me and
then doctoring them or altering them into pornography
and then posting them online. That was involved with a
lot of very, very highly explicit sexual commentary with
my details, like name, where I lived, where I studied. …
They’d Photoshop my face onto naked women. They
would Photoshop me onto images where I was having
sexual intercourse. They Photoshopped me into images
where I was being ejaculated on…
Police Resources and Training
Findings from our broader research into image-based
sexual abuse have shed light on the varying responses that
victim-survivors can receive when reporting to police. Whilst
some victim-survivors can have positive experiences from
police members who treat them with dignity and respect
whilst pursuing an investigation, there also appears to be
a continuing lack of awareness among some police of the
serious harms to victims or the existence of new laws on
image-based sexual abuse.22 Adequate resourcing for
police to conduct investigations and gather digital evidence
in relation to image-based sexual abuse, including in often
complex multi-jurisdictional contexts, continues to be vital.
Our research also suggests that additional training in relation
to image-based sexual abuse is needed for frontline police
who are often the rst port of call for victim-survivors, as well
as investigating ocers.
Heather’s Story
Heather (United Kingdom) described her experience of
reporting to police, which caused her further harm in
addition to the initial abuse victimisation:
The case ocer I was given came around two days after
I reported it and they took my rst statement. So, I had to
tell them everything that happened ... and they instantly
like victim blamed me for what had happened. She said
‘well I guess you’ve learnt your lesson’. … It felt like if
the police didn’t have any sympathy or anything then
nobody else probably would either. So, it made me feel
really bad. And I had to get my friend to come over that
night because I felt really unsafe in myself, I thought I’d
probably harm myself ... I dreaded every phone call from
[the ocer] because I just found her so unhelpful.
Improving Technical Responses
While clear and consistent laws are crucial, online platforms
also play an important role in preventing and responding to
image-based sexual abuse. Companies such as Facebook,
Google and Microsoft, have made signicant in-roads to
limiting the spread of image-based sexual abuse material
on their platforms. Measures such as strong community
standards banning image-based sexual abuse as well as
mechanisms for victim-survivors to report abuse images
remain vitally important.
A key challenge is that it is dicult for online platforms to
distinguish between consensual and non-consensual nude
or sexual images, unless victims themselves discover their
images and contact the site to request those images be
removed. Yet victims may only become aware of the image-
based sexual abuse material when they start receiving
harassing communications, sexual requests, or are
otherwise alerted to the presence of the images – often by
friends or family who rst discover them. By then, the harm
is often already done. Technical solutions, such as better
automated detection of images that have been reported by
victim-survivors as non-consensual, may oer an additional
way forward. Though ultimately, we need to see attitudinal
change among individuals, peer groups, families, workplaces
and organisations, that takes the harms of image-based
sexual abuse seriously and places the responsibility onto
perpetrators rather than onto victims.
14
Conclusion and Future Research
There is little doubt that nude and sexual images are
increasingly being used to coerce, threaten and abuse
victims. These harms extend well beyond the vengeful
actions of a ‘jilted lover’ and cross over into perpetration of
domestic and sexual violence, stalking, bullying and sexual
harassment. Thankfully, the seriousness of this social and
legal problem is increasingly being recognised. However,
our research suggests more needs to be done to protect
and support victims, hold perpetrators responsible for their
actions, and to drive the awareness and attitudinal change
needed to prevent these harms in the rst place.
Further research is also needed to capture the diversity of
victimisation experiences, particularly across more minoritised
groups, who have been over-represented as victims in our
survey to improve responses and understandings of this
form of abuse.23 An additional key research gap exists in
better understanding, particularly qualitative work, the
motivations and practices of perpetrators in order to inform
prevention and education in this space, as well as improving
responses.24 Finally, it is important to engage in research
on bystander prevention in relation to image-based sexual
abuse to safely empower those who witness instances of
abuse in supporting the victim(s) and/or seeking ways to
respond to perpetrators.25
As a community, we need to continue to challenge the blame
and stigma too often directed at victims, and communicate
a clear message that it is the perpetrators and those who
knowingly share these images whose actions must be
condemned. It will take a combination of legal and non-legal
measures to create the societal change needed to support
victims, hold perpetrators accountable, and ultimately
prevent image-based sexual abuse before it occurs.
Acknowledgements
The authors and RMIT University acknowledge the people of
the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the
eastern Kulin Nations on whose unceded lands we conduct
the business of RMIT University (Melbourne, Australia). The
authors and RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their
Ancestors and Elders, past and present.
The authors would further like to acknowledge and thank
the victim-survivors of image-based sexual abuse who have
participated in this research. Without your willingness to
share your experiences with us, we would not be able to
continue to advocate for justice.
This summary report is supported by an Australian Research
Council (ARC) Discovery Grant (Revenge Pornography:
The Prevalence and Nature of Non-Consensual Imagery
and the Implications for Law Reform, DP170101433). The
project team includes: Associate Professor Nicola Henry
(RMIT University), Associate Professor Asher Flynn (Monash
University), Associate Professor Anastasia Powell (RMIT
University), Professor Clare McGlynn (Durham University),
Professor Erika Rackley (University of Kent), Professor
Nicola Gavey (Auckland University) and Dr Adrian Scott
(Goldsmiths, University of London). The views expressed
here represent those of the named researchers and not of
the Commonwealth of Australia.
The authors of this report would like to acknowledge
the contributions of our collaborators whose work has
contributed to the larger project, in particular our partner
investigators Professors Clare McGlynn, Erika Rackley and
Nicola Gavey. We would also like to gratefully acknowledge
the contributions of Dr Kelly Johnson, Dr Jessamy Gleeson,
Georgina Dimopoulous and Stefani Vasil.
Suggested citation
Powell, A., Scott, A. J., Flynn, A. & Henry, N. (2020). Image-
Based Sexual Abuse: An International Study of Victims and
Perpetrators. Summary Report. Melbourne: RMIT University.
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7 Our survey study also included respondents who identied as
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12 This was a statistically signicant though weak trend. Further
examining the nature of image-based sexual abuse victimisation by
gender remains an important area for future research.
13 See for example research undertaken by the Social Research
Centre, Nicola Henry and Asher Flynn into the victimisation
experiences of culturally and linguistically diverse women in relation
to technology-facilitated abuse, funded by the Oce of e-Safety
Commissioner, 2019. Available at: https://www.esafety.gov.au/
about-us/research/women-from-diverse-backgrounds ; See also
Oce of the e-Safety Commissioner. (2017). Image-Based Abuse.
National Survey: Summary Report. Melbourne: Oce of the
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summary-report-2017.pdf
14 Powell, A., Henry, N., & Flynn, A. (2018). Image-based sexual
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16 Current research being undertaken by the Social Research
Centre, Asher Flynn and Nicola Henry exploring perpetrator
motivations for engaging in image-based sexual abuse, funded by
the Oce of the e-Safety Commissioner.
17 Note: Respondents were able to make multiple selections, and
as such percentages across types do not add up to 100%.
18 Note: Respondents were able to make multiple selections, and
as such percentages across types do not add up to 100%.
19 Henry, N., Powell, A., Rees, T., Ptzner, N., & Flynn, A. (2017).
Image-Based Abuse in Australia: Sites of Distribution. Report to
Oce of the e-Safety Commissioner. Melbourne: RMIT University;
Henry, N., & Flynn, A. (2019). Image-based sexual abuse: Online
distribution channels and illicit communities of support. Violence
against women, 25(16), 1932-1955.
20 The survey asked about seven feelings: I felt annoyed, I felt
embarrassed, I felt humiliated, I felt ashamed, I felt depressed, I
felt angry at the person, and I felt afraid for my safety.
21 Henry, N., Powell, A. & Flynn, A. (2017). Not just ‘revenge
pornography’: Australians’ experiences of image-based abuse. A
summary report. Melbourne: RMIT University.
22 McGlynn, C., Rackley, E., Johnson, K., Henry, N., Flynn, A.,
Powell, A., Gavey, N. and Scott, A. J. (2019). Shattering lives and
myths: A report on image-based sexual abuse. Project Report.
Durham: Durham University; University of Kent.
23 See for example research undertaken by the Social Research
Centre, Nicola Henry and Asher Flynn into the victimisation
experiences of culturally and linguistically diverse women in relation
to technology-facilitated abuse, funded by the Oce of e-Safety
Commissioner, 2019. Available at: https://www.esafety.gov.au/
about-us/research/women-from-diverse-backgrounds
24 See for example qualitative research being undertaken by the
Social Research Centre, Asher Flynn and Nicola Henry exploring
perpetrator motivations for engaging in image-based sexual abuse,
funded by the Oce of the e-Safety Commissioner, 2020.
25 See for example ‘Preventing Image-Based Cybercrime in
Australia: The Role of Bystanders’, funded by the Australian
Criminology Research Council (CRG02/19-20) led by Asher Flynn,
with Nicola Henry and Adrian J Scott.
... Establishing an accurate estimate of NCII victimization and perpetration is challenging, especially given the variability in the way participants are asked about their experiences with NCII (Walker & Sleath, 2017). A similar 1 in 3 prevalence was found in an international sample that used the same scale to capture NCII victimization (Powell et al., 2020). We also found the prevalence of NCII perpetration and found that approximately 13.7% had distributed the intimate image of someone else without permission. ...
... We also found the prevalence of NCII perpetration and found that approximately 13.7% had distributed the intimate image of someone else without permission. Similar rates of perpetration were previously reported in other adult samples (Clancy et al., 2019;Powell et al., 2019Powell et al., , 2020. ...
... More specifically, heterosexual participants were 35% less likely to report some form of NCII victimization. Our results are in agreement with previous work that found higher rates of NCII victimization among LGBQ+ participants compared to heterosexual participants (Powell et al., 2020;Priebe & Svedin, 2012). This could be a derivative of LGBQ+ individuals being more likely to engage in sexting (Dir et al., 2013;Ouytsel et al., 2019). ...
Article
Full-text available
Non-consensual intimate image dissemination (NCII), or else better known as “revenge pornography” is a form of technology-facilitated sexual violence that can have devastating effects on the victim. This is one of the first studies examining how demographic characteristics (gender, sexual orientation), personality traits (Dark Tetrad), and attitudes (aggrieved entitlement, sexual entitlement, sexual image abuse myth acceptance) predict NCII perpetration and victimization. In a sample of 810 undergraduate students (72.7% female and 23.3% male), 13.7% of the participants had at some point in their life, distributed nude, or sexual pictures of someone else without consent and 28.5% had experienced such victimization. NCII perpetration was predictive of NCII victimization and vice versa. Using binomial logistic regression, we found that women, members of the LGBQ+ community, those scoring higher in sadism, and participants with a history of NCII perpetration were more likely to report that someone had distributed their nude or sexual image without consent. Further, we found that those scoring higher in narcissism and sadism, along with those with a history of NCII victimization were more likely to report they had distributed the nude or sexual image of someone else without consent. Finally, the findings suggest that the relationship between victims and perpetrators is quite a bit more varied than the term “revenge pornography” implies.
... However, research on image-based sexual abuse shows men aged 1639 years are perpetrators more often than women of that age, with ratios of one in five and one in eight, respectively, with LGBTIQA+ people reporting relatively higher victimisation . Dedicated 'revenge porn' sites have 90 or more percent men users , and one recent estimate reported women as 27 times more likely to be harassed online than men. 10 While digital intimate partner violence affects all ages, note that young adults have the highest rates of technology use and are at highest risk of intimate partner violence (see Powell et al., 2020). ...
... Image-based sexual abuse, also known as 'revenge pornography' is the sharing of, or threatening to share, sexual images of another person without their consent(Powell et al. 2020). ...
Thesis
This thesis makes an original contribution to knowledge by demonstrating why it is important to widen our understanding of contemporary political participation to incorporate digital activism and clicktivism, particularly with regard to access and inclusion of a wider range of voices and opinions outside of those who already have access to mainstream political platforms of communication. Existing debates within political science on alternative forms of political participation are limited by comparing them to traditional politics, organisations and processes and ranking them accordingly as legitimate or illegitimate forms of political participation. What is not considered in these debates is that women, particularly feminists, are marginalised from male-dominated political structures, which delimit participation within the bounds of traditional politics. In this thesis, I evidence the significance of feminist digital activism and clicktivism as a means of lowering the barriers to create an inclusive definition of political participation. By taking an interdisciplinary approach, this thesis draws on debates within literature from three fields: web science, political participation and feminist activism. The intersection of these literatures reveals a new perspective on the contested concept of political participation, the motivations for and impact of, labelling digital activism as a form of contemporary political participation, unconstrained by borders, boundaries and citizenship. Accordingly, Twitter is the object of analysis for this qualitative investigation and the specific characteristics and practices that are unique to this platform merit a study of its own, which is currently missing in the literature. Digital feminist activism is explored as a form of political participation through an ethnographic study of feminist activists’ use of Twitter, which demonstrates that instances such as the #MeToo moment in 2017 can raise societal awareness about pertinent issues, which affects political and social change. Drawing concepts from the literature on digital activism, political participation and feminist activism creates the conceptual lens for analysing the empirical data gathered through undertaking a range of semi-structured interviews with feminist activists from Australia, Aoteroa New Zealand, Europe and the United States. The feminist Twitter community was observed as part of the ethnographic study during the year-long interview window, which allowed the researcher to examine feminist activists’ communication, action and connection practices. Further, interview respondents were identified and recruited on Twitter during this observation process. Feminist activists are inherently political; the actions they take, who they communicate with and connect to, are practices shaped by Twitter’s distinct characteristics, which enable feminist activists to interact and connect with geographically dispersed feminists, broadening access to information, resources, and knowledge. A tweet can challenge and critique a sexist headline when it directly addresses the journalist who penned the article and mentions the mainstream media company that published it: I evidence that it is not merely easy, disposable and inconsequential. I argue that clicktivism is a form of digital activism, which enables an individual to be political and to participate. Further, clicktivist practices, such as using a hashtag to contribute to large-scale action are easily replicated, which essentially is what makes this form of digital activism so significant.
... Image-based sexual abuse (IBSA), well known as revenge porn, is defined as the "non-consensual creation and distribution of private sexual images" [53,54]. IBSA often occurs in romantic relationships where partners send or receive private sexual images [68]. Following the end of a relationship, ex-partners may exploit intimate images to shame victims and damage their reputations by posting them on social media, sharing them with friends, and uploading them to pornographic websites [25]. ...
Article
The sending of sexually explicit images by men to women without prior request, a practice commonly referred to as sending or receiving a “dick pic,” is a fairly common manifestation of sexual cyber-violence that has grown in recent times. As research on this type of sexual cyber-violence is limited, the current study analyzed the prevalence of this phenomenon in a sample of 347 Spanish women between 18 and 30 years of age, studying the factors that influence the emotional impact reported by women if they received an unsolicited dick pic (using a hypothetical scenario) and exploring the various coping strategies that women would use in that situation. Results showed a significant prevalence of this type of cyber-violence in the sample, as 48.1% of the participants had received an unsolicited dick pic from an unknown man at some point. Women with lower levels of hostile sexism—but not of benevolent sexism—reported a higher depressed and angry/annoyed emotional impact of the sexual cyber-violence scenario. This was also the case for women with a less conservative political ideology, with less religious beliefs, as well as those women who perceived that their female friends receive this type of images frequently (descriptive norm) and who perceived that their female friends are less accepting of these situations (injunctive norm). In addition, from the strategies presented to the participants to cope with this situation of sexual cyber-violence, it was observed that a significant percentage of women would choose strategies, such as talking about the incident with other people and blocking the sender’s access. Yet, fewer women would employ effective strategies, such as reporting the perpetrator’s profile to the managers or administrators of the social network or reporting the incident to the police. This study is one of the first studies in Spain that addresses this new form of sexual cyber-violence against women by unknown men and suggests that, in online social networks, women experience the same situations of abuse, harassment, and sexual objectification that they have faced offline in everyday life. Therefore, more work needs to be done to raise awareness and try to prevent these situations, while also providing more support to these women so that they can adopt effective coping strategies.
Article
ABSTRACT Method Analyses Results Discussion Conclusion Disclosure statement References Appendixes Full Article Figures & data References Citations Metrics Reprints & Permissions PDF | EPUB ABSTRACT Despite media attention on non-consensual intimate image dissemination (NCII), the literature on the personality traits, attitudes, and beliefs that predict NCII approval, enjoyment, and perpetration is limited. With a sample of 810 undergraduate students, we examined the relationship between dark personality traits, acceptance of image-based sexual abuse-related myths, and NCII. We found that 48.2% of our participants did not oppose NCII perpetration, 71.4% did not oppose NCII enjoyment, and 97.8% did not oppose NCII approval. Moreover, we found that being a man, heterosexual, and scoring higher in dark personality traits predicted acceptance of Image-Based Sexual Abuse (IBSA)-related myths. In turn, accepting such myths predicted not opposing NCII proclivity. Our results underscore the importance of demystifying technology-facilitated sexual violence and promoting educational material that highlights lived experience and dispelling IBSA-related myths.
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This study was conducted to understand various aspects of sexual violence and to prevent reoffending by identifying and comparing the characteristics of online sexual offenders and date sexual abusers. For this purpose, 158 men in their 20s to 60s across the country have participated in the survey. Their data on online sexual offending experience, dating sexual assault experience, rape myth, image-based sexual abuse belief acceptance, sex addiction, and the short tetrad for dark personality scale were analyzed. As a result, those who experienced online sexual offending scored higher than those who had never experienced sexual violence on most scales. They scored higher than those who experienced dating sexual violence in sex-related myths. As a result of predicting through logistic regression analysis, image-based sexual abuse beliefs and sadistic tendencies could predict online sexual offending experiences, and sex addiction and age could predict date sexual abuse experiences. Based on the results, the characteristics of the two groups and appropriate prevention and intervention for sexual violence behavior were discussed.
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Image Based Sexual Abuse (IBSA) denotes the creation, distribution, and/or threat of distribution of intimate images of another person online without their consent. The present study aims to extend emerging research on perpetration of IBSA with the development and preliminary validation for the moral disengagement in IBSA scale, while also examining the role of the dark triad, sadism, and sexism in a person’s likelihood to perpetrate IBSA. One hundred and twenty English speaking participants (76 women, 44 men; mean age=33 years) were recruited via social media. Machiavellianism and psychopathy were found to predict IBSA proclivity, whilst rivalry narcissism predicted greater feelings of excitement and amusement towards IBSA. Moral disengagement predicted IBSA proclivity and blaming the victim. It was also positively related to greater feelings of amusement and excitement towards IBSA. This suggests a distinct personality profile of IBSA perpetrators, and that moral disengagement mechanisms play a role in facilitating and reinforcing this behaviour.
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This study was conducted to validate the K-SIAMA by translating the Sexual Image-Based Abuse Myth Acceptance (SIAMA) scale developed by Powell et al. (2019) into Korean and verifying its reliability and validity. In study 1, data from 215 people were collected, factor analysis was performed, and 16 items were confirmed. In study 2, confirmative factor analysis on 321 people showed a good fitness in the two factors as the original version; minimization/excuse and blame. Appropriate convergent-discriminant validity was confirmed through correlation with the Rape Myth Scale, Online-version Sex Addiction Scale, and Conflict Tactic Scale-2. Also, as a result of comparing the differences between groups according to whether or not they committed image-based sexual violence, significant differences were found in K-SIAMA. As a result of verifying the half-reliability, internal consistency, and test-retest reliability, K-SIAMA was confirmed to be a reliable measure. This scale can be widely used in future research on online sexual violence, including digital sex crimes in Korea. The implications and limitations of the study and suggestions for further studies were discussed.
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The use of location-based real-time dating applications (LBRTDAs) has become commonplace among college-aged persons. With an increase in their use, these applications may serve as vectors for experiencing cybervictimization. Limited research has examined the implications that application usage has on individual experiences with cybervictimization, particularly cyberstalking, cyberharassment, image-based abuse, and identity deception. Using a sample of college students (N = 324; 73% female), and concentrating primarily on Tinder users, this study examines the correlates of experiencing these forms of cybervictimization, concentrating on the influence that application infrastructure and profile features (e.g., Global Positioning System [GPS] functionality) have on the likelihood of cybervictimization. Results indicate inconsistent and largely insignificant effects, suggesting that opting into the use of safety features and protective measures cannot guarantee protection from application-based forms of cybervictimization. As such, policy implications and directions for future research are discussed.
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Image-based sexual abuse (IBSA) involves three key behaviors: the non-consensual taking or creation of nude or sexual images; the non-consensual sharing or distribution of nude or sexual images; and threats made to distribute nude or sexual images. IBSA is becoming increasingly criminalized internationally, representing an important and rapidly developing cybercrime issue. This paper presents findings of the first national online survey of self-reported lifetime IBSA perpetration in Australia (n = 4053), with a focus on the extent, nature, and predictors of perpetration. Overall, 11.1% (n = 411) of participants self-reported having engaged in some form of IBSA perpetration during their lifetime, with men significantly more likely to report IBSA perpetration than women. With regard to the nature of perpetration, participants reported targeting men and women at similar rates, and were more likely to report perpetrating against intimate partners or ex-partners, family members and friends than strangers or acquaintances. Logistic regression analyses identified that males, lesbian, gay or bisexual participants, participants with a self-reported disability, participants who accepted sexual image-based abuse myths, participants who engaged in or experienced sexual self-image behaviors, and participants who had a nude or sexual image of themselves taken, distributed, and/or threatened to be distributed without their consent were more likely to have engaged in some form of IBSA perpetration during their lifetime.
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Image-based sexual abuse (IBSA) refers to the non-consensual recording, distribution, or threat of distribution, of nude or sexual images. Over the past five years, numerous jurisdictions have amended their criminal laws to respond more effectively to this growing phenomenon, yet increased criminalization has not automatically translated into increased prosecutions. Drawing on stakeholder interviews with 52 Australian legal and policy experts, domestic and sexual violence advocates, industry representatives, police, and academics, this article examines law enforcement responses to IBSA in Australia. We argue that although there is evidence to suggest IBSA is being treated more seriously by police, there are five primary barriers to responding to IBSA, including: inconsistent laws; a lack of resources; evidentiary limitations; jurisdictional boundaries; and victim-blaming or harm minimization attitudes. Suggestions are made for how to respond to these challenges to facilitate more effective policing of IBSA.
Research
Full-text available
• 1 in 5 Australians have experienced image-based abuse • Victims of image-based abuse experience high levels of psychological distress • Women and men are equally likely to report being a victim • Perpetrators of image-based abuse are most likely to be male, and known to the victim • Men and young adults are more likely to voluntarily share a nude or sexual image of themselves • Women are more likely than men to fear for their safety due to image-based abuse • Abuse risk is higher for those who share sexual sel es, but they are not the only victims • 1 in 2 Australians with a disability report being a victim of image-based abuse • 1 in 2 Indigenous Australians report image-based abuse victimisation • Image-based abuse victimisation is higher for lesbian, gay and bisexual Australians • Young people aged 16 to 29 years are also at higher risk of image-based abuse • 4 in 5 Australians agree it should be a crime to share sexual or nude images without permission
Article
Digital technologies are increasingly being used to abuse, harass, and victimize women. Image-based sexual abuse (IBSA)—the nonconsensual taking or sharing (including threats to share) nude or sexual images—is one such form of abuse. Various jurisdictions have enacted laws criminalizing IBSA, but Australia is arguably leading the way, with eight of its nine jurisdictions introducing innovative IBSA laws. This article explores the Australian laws, focusing on their capacity to address the gendered nature of IBSA. While highlighting the importance of these laws, we argue that a multifaceted approach is required to combat IBSA that includes law reform, education, and training.
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This article investigates the nature and scope of image-based sexual abuse (IBSA) material on 77 high-volume online websites. On the majority of these sites, users appeared to be motivated by sexual gratification and proving masculinity to a sexually deviant peer network, rather than revenge against the person depicted in the image. We argue that nonconsensual image exchanges are contextualized within ever-expanding digital environments, characterized by dislocation of time and space, overvisualization, and hypersexuality. We argue that IBSA is a vehicle for the construction, performativity, and negotiation of hypermasculinity and heteronormativity, within the bounds and structures of existing gendered power relations.
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This study explored patterns of intimate partner violence (IPV) victimization and perpetration in 150 sexual minority women (SMW): 25.3% had been sexually victimized, 34% physically victimized, 76% psychologically victimized, and 29.3% suffered an IPV-related injury. A latent class analysis found four behavioral patterns: (1) minor-only psychological perpetration and victimization; (2) no IPV; (3) minor–severe psychological, physical assault, and injury victimization, and minor-only psychological, physical, and injury perpetration; and (4) severe psychological, sexual, physical assault, and injury victimization and perpetration. Individuals who experienced and/or perpetrated all types experienced the greatest heterosexism at work, school, and in other contexts.
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This book examines how digital communications technologies have transformed modern societies, with profound effects both for everyday life, and for everyday crimes. Sexual violence, which is recognized globally as a significant human rights problem, has likewise changed in the digital age. Through an investigation into our increasingly and ever-normalised digital lives, this study analyses the rise of technology-facilitated sexual assault, ‘revenge pornography’, online sexual harassment and gender-based hate speech. Drawing on ground-breaking research into the nature and extent of technology-facilitated forms of sexual violence and harassment, the authors explore the reach of these harms, the experiences of victims, the views of service providers and law enforcement bodies, as well as the implications for law, justice and resistance. Sexual Violence in a Digital Age is compelling reading for scholars, activists, and policymakers who seek to understand how technology is implicated in sexual violence, and what needs to be done to address sexual violence in a digital age.