For all the benefits of the digital age, it has also provided one of the most disturbing new two-word phrases of our time – revenge porn.
It describes the ugliest of phenomenons: the distribution of intimate pictures without permission.
Other terms exist within this grim new era of image-based abuse. An extension of sexual assault. A form of domestic violence. Sex crime. Cyber rape.
It is all of these things because it is an act beyond irresponsible, one designed to humiliate victims in one of the worse imaginable ways.
Revenge porn dismisses the most basic and crucial common courtesy that should be the guiding principle of any intimate interaction – consent.
Nathan Broad, 24, has been named as the AFL Richmond player responsible for distributing a picture of a topless young woman wearing his premiership medal, which quickly went viral.
In his apology statement he said it was “never my intention to hurt her or her family” and describes it as “a very bad drunken decision”.
A bad drunken decision is getting a kebab when you’re on a diet, not crushing the dignity of a young woman by betraying her trust and humiliating her as cheap fodder for your mates.”
Nathan Broad outranked this woman on every level. Freshly victorious from the premiership, he’s since been surrounded by Richmond’s PR machine and the AFL’s lawyers in professional ‘damage limitation’ mode.
Richmond moral outrage when reports first emerged promised to rain hell down on the perpetrator – whose identity the club would’ve known from day one. But Richmond waited until the woman hired lawyers Maurice Blackburn to actually name him and his punishment.
And what a meagre punishment it was. A pathetic three-week ban.
Three weeks? Compare that to the lifetime of trust issues he has imposed on this woman. It prompted four-time AFL premiership winner Luke Hodge to say: “Next time, if that happens, I hope the AFL come down a lot harder than this one.”
The message the AFL has sent out on this incident is that a form of sexual harassment of women deserves little more than a slap on the wrist.
Society has a problem
The league may have weighed the wrong side of the public mood. Before Broad was named, some reactions on social media offered the usual feeble reasons: She posed for the topless shot. Her face isn’t in the image. She should’ve known better.
AFL players – especially ones who win the premiership – are looked upon as heroes and role models by other young men. A clear message is that sending intimate photos of friends or sexual partners isn’t cool, funny or excusable. It demands a heavier hand than a three-match ban.
Broad’s apology feels perfunctory when you consider he was posting social media pictures of the races in Hong Kong and a holiday in Bali with his teammates while the woman in question was left to deal with the horror show back home.
Research shows that 23 per cent of Australians have been a victim of image-based abuse, yet there’s no federal law addressing it and a lack of police training to effectively tackle it.
Three states and territories – Queensland, Tasmania and the Northern Territory – haven’t outlawed it.
Not properly tackling this problem is dangerous and has real consequences for the victim.
When I was Director of Communications at Change.org, a petition was started one day by Robyn Night from Brisbane, pleading for revenge porn laws.
She wrote: “For four years I’ve lived in fear. I didn’t know that my ex was impersonating me online – inviting strangers to my home to ‘rape me’, ‘humiliate me’ and ‘torture me’.”
When we got in touch with Ms Night she told us that over 50 men turned up on her doorstep demanding sex, even while she was pregnant. She was forced to install security cameras and signs to warn them off.
Ms Night’s story is a stark reminder of the slippery slope we find ourselves on when major sporting bodies, our politicians and the police have neither the full resources nor the authentic inclination to tackle this modern, heinous crime.