Nav: Home

Study charts rising trend of image-based sexual abuse

February 20, 2020

Image-based sexual abuse in Australia is increasing, according to new research.

A survey of more than 2000 Australians found 1 in 3 had been victims of image-based abuse, compared with 1 in 5 in 2016.

The survey also found the perpetration of image-based abuse had increased, with 1 in 6 people surveyed reporting they had taken, shared or made threats to share a nude or sexual image of a person without that person's consent, compared with 1 in 10 of those surveyed in 2016.

The findings are detailed in a new report Image-Based Sexual Abuse: An International Study of Victims and Perpetrators, which presents the results of the first cross-national survey on image-based sexual abuse, conducted in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom in 2019.

The Australian survey follows a similar study conducted in 2016 - the first of its kind - allowing the researchers to compare results for the first time.

Image-based sexual abuse is the non-consensual taking, sharing or threatening to share nude or sexual images of a person, including the use of digitally-altered imagery.

Lead author Associate Professor Anastasia Powell said although it's commonly referred to as "revenge porn", the study shows the perpetration of image-based abuse is not limited to jilted ex-lovers out for vengeance.

"We found that image-based sexual abuse is used by perpetrators of domestic violence and sexual assault, in stalking and sexual harassment, as well as in threats and bullying by peers and other known people," Powell said.

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

"Our interviews with victims uncovered cases of people being photographed or filmed without their knowledge in the shower, while sleeping, over Skype and during sex.

"We also found no increase in people sending consensual sexy selfies. All this suggests it's not victim behaviour driving the rise in abuse, but rather the actions of perpetrators."

The survey of 2,054 Australians aged 16-64 also found that:
  • Young people were twice as likely as those aged over 40 to be victims of image-based sexual abuse, with those aged between 20 and 29 years the most likely group to be victims.

  • Men and women reported a similar frequency of victimisation, but women experienced higher levels of harm from the abuse, including being more than twice as likely as men to report being fearful for their safety from the perpetrator.

  • Men were more likely than women to be perpetrators.

  • Perpetrators reported that their reasons for the abuse included for fun, to flirt or be sexy, to impress friends or trade images, to control, embarrass, and/or get back at the person in the image.

  • The most common sites for distribution were social media, email and mobile messages.

  • Rates of image-based sexual abuse victimisation were similar across Australia (35.2%), UK (39%) and New Zealand (39%).
Notably, while results showed strong support among survey respondents for image-based sexual abuse to be made a criminal offence (at more than 80%), less than half knew that it that it actually was a crime to take, distribute or threaten to share nude or sexual images of a person without consent.

Co-author Associate Professor Asher Flynn from Monash University said these findings highlighted the need for greater awareness-raising and legal education.

"Though most states and territories in Australia now have specific laws criminalising image-based sexual abuse, we need to make sure that those laws are enforced - that victims are supported, and perpetrators are held to account," Flynn said.

"There is also a need to build information about the seriousness and harmfulness of image-based sexual abuse into respectful relationships education.

"But most of all, we need community attitudes to change so that whether it is our friend, a family member, a fellow student or co-worker whose image is shared without consent - we place the blame and shame on the perpetrator of the image-based sexual abuse and not on the victim."
-end-
Supplementary information:

The Office of the eSafety Commissioner operates an online portal with information, advice and assistance for victims of image-based sexual abuse. Visit https://www.esafety.gov.au/image-based-abuse/

The National Sexual Assault, Family and Domestic Violence Counselling Line - 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) - is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault.

RMIT University

Related Social Media Articles:

Social media postings linked to hate crimes
A new paper in the Journal of the European Economic Association, published by Oxford University Press, explores the connection between social media and hate crimes.
How Steak-umm became a social media phenomenon during the pandemic
A new study outlines how a brand of frozen meat products took social media by storm - and what other brands can learn from the phenomenon.
COVID-19: Social media users more likely to believe false information
A new study led by researchers at McGill University finds that people who get their news from social media are more likely to have misperceptions about COVID-19.
Stemming the spread of misinformation on social media
New research reported in the journal Psychological Science finds that priming people to think about accuracy could make them more discerning in what they subsequently share on social media.
Looking for better customer engagement value? Be more strategic on social media
According to a new study from the University of Vaasa and University of Cyprus, the mere use of social media alone does not generate customer value, but rather, the connections and interactions between the firm and its customers -- as well as among customers themselves -- can be used strategically for resource transformation and exchanges between the interacting parties.
Exploring the use of 'stretchable' words in social media
An investigation of Twitter messages reveals new insights and tools for studying how people use stretched words, such as 'duuuuude,' 'heyyyyy,' or 'noooooooo.' Tyler Gray and colleagues at the University of Vermont in Burlington present these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on May 27, 2020.
How social media platforms can contribute to dehumanizing people
A recent analysis of discourse on Facebook highlights how social media can be used to dehumanize entire groups of people.
Social media influencers could encourage adolescents to follow social distancing guidelines
Public health bodies should consider incentivizing social media influencers to encourage adolescents to follow social distancing guidelines, say researchers.
Social grooming factors influencing social media civility on COVID-19
A new study analyzing tweets about COVID-19 found that users with larger social networks tend to use fewer uncivil remarks when they have more positive responses from others.
Using social media to understand the vaccine debate in China
Vaccine acceptance is a crucial public health issue, which has been exacerbated by the use of social media to spread content expressing vaccine hesitancy.
More Social Media News and Social Media Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Warped Reality
False information on the internet makes it harder and harder to know what's true, and the consequences have been devastating. This hour, TED speakers explore ideas around technology and deception. Guests include law professor Danielle Citron, journalist Andrew Marantz, and computer scientist Joy Buolamwini.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.