You’ve heard of ‘sexting’ and ‘nudes’, and you know that things can go wrong. But what do we mean by ‘image-based abuse’? And what can schools do about it?
Image-based abuse occurs when someone shares, or threatens to share, an intimate image or video without the consent of the person depicted. This can include images that have been digitally altered.
However, this does not mean that all images are bad. We know that 75 per cent of 14-17-year-olds share nudes, and that's not going to stop. What's important is that any images are shared with consent from the person in the photo. Without it, image-based abuse is present. You might have heard this behaviour dubbed ‘revenge porn’, but this is not a helpful term. In fact, image-based abuse takes many different forms.
Scenarios of image-based abuse include:
�Other terms you might have heard, and their meaning include:
According to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner, one-third of the reports they receive about image-based abuse involve children under 18.
And one recent survey of more than 4,000 Australian adults found that one in 10 had had their intimate images shared without their consent.
Everyone’s experience is different. But many people describe feeling angry, humiliated, embarrassed, socially isolated, worried and/or afraid for their safety.
Young people in their teens and twenties are more vulnerable than older Australians to image-based abuse, according to recent research.
Both men and women can be victims or perpetrators. However, women are more likely to:
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and people with disabilities, are subjected to image-based abuse at especially high rates.
Some people use image-based abuse to get things they want, such as power, popularity, sexual gratification or money.
Most image-based abuse starts between people who know each other – e.g. partners, ex-partners, relatives, friends or acquaintances. Sometimes image-based abuse happens alongside other forms of abuse, such as family violence, sexual harassment or trafficking.
This points to the critical importance of respect in all relationships, including respect for other people’s privacy, dignity, independence, reputation and happiness.
Unfortunately, some factors make it easier for image-based abuse to continue. These include:
Laws about image-based abuse and sexting are complicated and vary between jurisdictions. For example, sexting is illegal under Commonwealth law if it involves anyone under 18 – even if it’s private and consensual – but some states have defences or exceptions to these laws for consensual sexting between young people of similar ages.
Contact Youth Law Australia to learn about the laws where you live.
Check out this guide for schools by the eSafety Commissioner and the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation. It explains the steps for responding to image-based abuse of students.
Meanwhile, we encourage schools to keep working with all students to promote respectful relationships and smart, safe and responsible use of technology. eSmart Schools supports schools on this journey.
Another great resource for schools is the Connect workshop: ‘Share This – Respectful Relationships, Consent and Image-Based Abuse’.
If you know someone who is experiencing or has experienced image-based abuse, here are some ways to help:
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