Image-based abuse in Tasmania: how we should be empowering victims

In the same week Fairfax Tasmania published a series of articles on ‘revenge porn’, a Richmond Football Club player was accused of non-consensually sharing images he’d supposedly taken of a topless woman.

Victoria Police revealed on Tuesday that it was investigating the unnamed player who was alleged to have distributed the images, in which a naked woman is shown with a premiership medal draped around her neck. 

The images were allegedly taken following Richmond’s AFL Grand Final victory and later emerged on social media platforms.

This incident served to demonstrate how real the problem of image-based abuse is in our country.

‘Blame and Shame’, Fairfax Media’s five-part series on image-based abuse in Tasmania, sought to highlight the problems the phenomenon poses here in this state.

The series included stories of young Tasmanian women grappling with the ruinous impact of having their intimate images shared non-consensually or having such images used to exploit them.

The term ‘revenge porn’ doesn’t even begin to encapsulate the myriad motives for image-based abuse.

Sexual Assault Support Service chief executive Jill Maxwell described image-based abuse as “a form of sexual violence”.

The abuse of power that so-called revenge porn represents is a violation of one of the most basic human rights: consent.

For this reason, image-based abuse needs to be understood in the same context as sexual assault.

Australia isn’t completely behind the eight-ball on this issue.

In 2016, a Senate inquiry recommended the federal government legislate offences for image-based abuse and that state and territory jurisdictions modelled their own legislation after the Commonwealth’s.

Not much progress has been made in this regard at a federal level.

Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales decided image-based abuse was too serious an issue to wait for the federal government to lead the way.

These states criminalised image-based abuse, with offenders facing up to four years in jail.

There’s existing legislation in Tasmania that allows for prosecutions of non-consensual sharing of intimate images, but we aren’t seeing anywhere near enough victims coming forward to report abuse.

Our state needs specific offences for image-based abuse, ones that take into account threats to distribute intimate images as well as for the actual act of sharing images non-consensually.

What better way is there of sending a message to the community that this behaviour is unacceptable?

In drafting new legislation, the state government should include provisions for non-publication orders, which would protect victims’ identities.

What’s more, the government has to scrap the law that makes it illegal for someone under the age of 18 to take and share an intimate image of themselves.

It’s a law which discourages young Tasmanians from reporting image-based abuse, for fear of implicating themselves in the process.

Technology is a legitimate vehicle through which young people explore their sexuality.

And when we talk to our kids about image-based abuse, let’s not warn them against sending ‘nudes’.

Rather, let’s teach them what to do when they receive an intimate image.

Treat it with respect.