A landmark study shows a staggering 10 per cent of Australians have engaged in revenge porn and other forms of abuse involving sexual photos and videos.
RMIT researchers have polled more than 4200 people, aged 16 to 49, revealing for the first time just how prevalent this kind of abuse is in Australia.
One in every 10 people admitted they’d used explicit images of others in an abusive way, including secretly filming others, with men far more likely to own up to it.
Respondents confessed to a broad spectrum of abuse that went beyond the commonly accepted definition of revenge porn, where a jilted partner seeks vengeance online.
People admitted to turning others into unwitting subjects in pornographic photos and videos by secretly recording them.
Almost nine per cent of people said they had taken nude or sexual photos or videos of someone without their consent, while more than six per cent had shared or distributed such content.
Poll respondents also confessed to sharing or threatening to share sexual images online, and covertly filming up women’s skirts and down their blouses.
“We also know of computer hackers accessing a victim’s webcam and their personal computer files as well as sexual assaults or rapes being filmed,” chief investigator Associate Professor Nicola Henry said.
Men were significantly more likely than women to confess to such abuse, and lesbian, gay and bisexual people were more likely than heterosexuals to own up.
Interestingly, victims of such abuse were also more likely to admit they were abusers themselves.
The poll also shone a light on who is likely to fall victim, with abusers more likely to share explicit images of people they knew, such as partners, ex-partners, friends and even relatives.
Study co-author and criminologist Anastasia Powell said such abuse is a complex problem that requires a complex response.
“While people do still tend to blame the victims, there is also widespread agreement in the community that perpetration of image-based abuse should be a crime,” she said.
“We need nationally consistent laws, support and information for victims, as well as consistent action by social media and website providers.
“We also need education that moves away from blaming and shaming the victims, and places the responsibility back onto perpetrators.”
The federal government released a report last week that was scathing of social media giants for doing the bare minimum to protect users from online abuse, including sexualised abuse.
The government is considering new laws to boost online safety and just last week, Queensland passed laws making it a crime to send or threaten to send intimate images of someone without their consent.