Revenge porn: Image-based abuse hits 'one in five' Australians

A generic image of a person's hands on a computer keyboard Image copyright Getty Images

One in five Australians has suffered image-based abuse, according to the nation's most comprehensive study on "revenge porn".

The national survey of more than 4,200 people found that men and women were equally likely to be targeted.

A fifth had had nude or sexual images taken without their permission, while 11% said images of them had been distributed without consent.

The results showed abuse was even more rife than thought, researchers said.

Men were more likely to be perpetrators, while women held greater fears for their own safety, according to the study by RMIT University and Monash University.

Rapid change

The risk of victimisation was higher for minority groups including indigenous, disabled and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) Australians.

The researchers recommended making image-based abuse a federal crime and creating a helpline similar to one established in the UK in 2015.

"Image-based abuse has emerged so rapidly as an issue that inevitably our laws and policies are struggling to catch up," said lead researcher Dr Nicola Henry.

"This is not just about 'revenge porn' - images are being used to control, abuse and humiliate people in ways that go well beyond the 'relationship gone sour' scenario."

Only two states - Victoria and South Australia - have specific laws against distributing images without consent.

Origins of the term "revenge porn"

Image copyright Urban Dictionary
  • Originally used in the early 1990s to refer to a sub-genre of movies featuring a revenge plot and gratuitous levels of violence, a close relation to "torture porn"
  • The current meaning was first defined by a user of in 2007. JonasOooohyeah defined it as: "Homemade porn uploaded by ex girlfriend or (usually) ex boyfriend after particularly vicious breakup as a means of humiliating the ex or just for own amusement"
  • By late 2008, the term was in use as the name of at least one website on an adult blog hosting service and in November of the same year, Details magazine published an article on revenge porn
  • It wasn't until three years later the media began to pay revenge porn serious attention, when, in December 2011, Facebook moved to prevent one website from providing links to the profiles of Facebook users alongside explicit photographs of them posted without their consent

Research by Jonathan Dent, an assistant editor for the Oxford English Dictionary

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