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Marginalised people are at greater risk of being victims of revenge porn, says study – A N I T H
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Marginalised people are at greater risk of being victims of revenge porn, says study

Marginalised people are at greater risk of being victims of revenge porn, says study


Marginalised groups report a much higher number of abuse.

Image: Getty Images/WIN-Initiative RM

Australian researchers have put together the first comprehensive look at the scale of “revenge porn,” and they’ve found 1 in 5 people have been victims of image-based abuse.

According to the results of an online survey of 4,274 people aged 16 to 49 by RMIT University and Monash University, common types of abuse were taking sexual or nude images without consent (20 per cent), images distributed on the internet without consent (11 per cent) and threatening to share images (9 per cent).

The study also noted people who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual are more likely to be victims (36 per cent) than heterosexual people (21 per cent), and overally, men and women are equally likely to be victims.

An even higher number of people in some marginalised groups reported abuse: 56 per cent of people with a disability and 50 per cent of Indigenous Australians.

But the true number of victims who’ve experienced abuse could be higher, simply because many people aren’t aware of their images being shared without their knowledge.

“Our study is also maybe an underestimate.”

“Our study is also maybe an underestimate,” Dr Nicola Henry, the report’s chief investigator, said. 

“Because our study only includes victims who’ve become aware that someone has taken or distributed of them, there are many victims who are not aware about image-based abuse against them — and they may never necessarily find out about it.”

So far there have been “very few studies” when it comes to the instances of image-based abuse, which makes it difficult to compare these numbers internationally, according to Henry. Most of these international studies focus on the technologies that facilitate sexual violence, abuse and harassment. 

The next stage of the study will expand to the UK and New Zealand, which have similar legal systems to Australia. In the UK, a perpetrator who shares images without consent can only be prosecuted if there is an “intent to cause distress,” a wording which Henry describes as “problematic.”

However, these countries differ in that “revenge porn” laws cover the entire country, as opposed to just states and territories like Australia. 

She said the lack of criminal laws around “revenge porn” in Australia is not to blame for people who still share images without consent, or prevent the problem, although these legal responses are important. 

“What we need to do … is to think about community and school educational programs that focus on the effects of sharing and taking images without consent,” Henry said. 

With 80 per cent of victims of “sextortion” reporting high levels of psychological distress, consistent with moderate to severe depression, you’d think governments would do more to act.

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Anith Gopal
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