FAQ

These frequently asked questions provide an overview of key issues and terminology relating to image-based abuse

What is image-based abuse?

Image-based abuse occurs when intimate, nude or sexual images are shared without the consent of those pictured. This includes real, altered (i.e. Photoshopped) and drawn pictures and videos.

While most image-based abuse is about the sharing of images without consent, it can also include the threat of an image being shared.

Examples of image-based abuse include:

  • Your current or ex-partner sharing an intimate image on social media without your consent.
  • A work colleague Photoshopping an image of you with an explicit image and sharing it broadly via email.
  • A stranger taking an intimate image without your consent, also known as ‘up-skirting’, or ‘down-blousing’ or ‘creepshots’, and sharing it on a website or porn site.

What to do if you have just discovered that an image of you has been shared without your consent

Ensure immediate safety:

  • Make sure that you are in a safe place.
  • If you are at risk of immediate harm call Triple Zero (000)
  • If you are experiencing image-based abuse as part of an abusive relationship, contact your local police or a social worker.

If you are in an abusive relationship or have experienced domestic violence

Whilst we understand the urgency to get damaging content down, if you are in an abusive or volatile relationship, or the perpetrator is potentially violent, you may want to speak to police, a lawyer or a support service to ensure you have a safety plan in place before you make a take-down request.

Support and counselling

There are a number of support and counselling services to help deal with the emotional effects of image-based abuse. Some are available free of charge. Find out more about support and counselling.

Family and friends

Family and friends have a very important role to play in helping victims of image-based abuse. Friends and family who offer unconditional support, focus on the victim’s experience, and do not blame the victim, are the most helpful.

Removing images, preserving evidence and taking action

Find out more about how you can take action to try to get images removed or deleted or block the images. Before you remove images, it is important to collect evidence of the abuse, as this may be useful when contacting social media services or websites to request the removal of images or video. Preserving evidence is also important as you may want to report the matter to the police or seek legal assistance.

Is image-based abuse different from ‘revenge-porn?’

Image-based abuse is also commonly called ‘revenge porn’, although this term can be misleading as not all image-based abuse is motivated by ‘revenge’, nor is it restricted to ‘porn’. In fact, there are many complex motivations and stories behind the widespread instances of image-based abuse in our communities.

According to recent RMIT research, ‘images are being used in highly diverse and complex ways as a form of control, abuse, humiliation and gratification that goes well beyond the jilted ex-lover scenario….’

Image-based abuse can also be referred to as:

  • non-consensual porn
  • non-consensual sexual/ nude/ intimate image sharing
  • technology-facilitated violence
  • intimate image abuse
  • cyber exploitation
  • up-skirting/ down-blousing / creepshots

What are ‘revenge porn’ websites?

‘Revenge porn’ websites are typically online businesses that encourage users to upload nude or sexual images of others, often with information about the person in the images such as names, addresses and links to personal profiles. Victims may be forced to pay money to remove the images.

The most well-known revenge porn websites are hosted overseas and may not willingly take down images on request as they are deliberately exploitative.

What is sextortion?

Sextortion is a form of blackmail where a perpetrator tries to get sexual favours, money or some other demand, by threatening to reveal intimate images of someone. They may also request money, additional images, or sexual favours for removing the images online. This is a form of image-based abuse.

If you are experiencing sextortion, contact police or seek legal assistance.

You will find more information about image-based abuse and related issues in our Glossary.

Typically, what has to be in an image for it to be considered image-based abuse?

Image-based abuse is complex and diverse. It can include non-consensual sharing of a photograph, drawing or video that shows a person:

  • engaged in sexual activity OR
  • in a manner or context that is sexual OR
  • nude OR
  • showering or bathing OR
  • where their breasts or genitals are visible OR
  • where the image focuses on the genital, anal or breast region, including where they are covered in underwear, such as in ‘up-skirting’ and ‘down-blousing’.

This includes real photos, pictures that are digitally altered (e.g. ‘Photoshopped’ or similar), and drawn pictures and videos.

Image-based abuse can also include images altered to imply an identity of a person in any of the above descriptions. For instance, if a victim’s head is Photoshopped onto on a porn actor’s body and is shared without consent, this is image-based abuse.

It can also include the threat to share an image or video that fits any of the above descriptions.

What is meant by ‘consent’?

Consent is when someone clearly agrees to do something.

Image-based abuse happens when someone has shared an intimate, nude or sexual image or video of you online, without your agreement. Even if you agreed for someone to take or have an intimate image of you at one point in time, this does not mean that consent has also been granted for it to be shared with others or for other people to have or see this image.

Who are the victims of image-based abuse?

Image-based abuse is more common that you might think. Around 20% of Australians have experienced IBA. It impacts people regardless of their age, race, gender, sexual orientation, education or bank balance.

However research commissioned by the Office of the eSafety Commission shows that it is more common amongst some groups.

As of May 2017, amongst those who reported having experienced image-based abuse:

  • 25% are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders
  • 24% are women aged 18 – 24 years
  • 19% are LGBTI
  • 18% are those who speak a language other than English at home

Why do people share images without consent?

People who share images without consent do so for a range of reasons. Some people who share images have reported being upset with the victim — mainly following a relationship break up — or wanting to harm and humiliate them. Others reported wanting to bully the victim.

Image-based abuse can also be part of a pattern of controlling and abusive behavior in a domestic violence situation that deliberately seeks to create fear and/or shame.

However, according to recent research, only 12% of perpetrators committed image-based abuse because they were upset with the victim or wanted to harm them.

Many share non-consensual images as a game among friends without the direct intention of hurting anyone. The Cyber Civil Rights Initiative found that the majority of people (79%) who reported sharing a sexually explicit photo of someone without their consent did it… ‘just to share “with friends” without the intention “to hurt” the person’.

Whatever the reason, even if someone has consented to an intimate image or video being taken of them, sharing that image or video without their consent can never be justified, and is not acceptable.

What if I consented to having the images or video taken?

Consenting to have an image or video taken does not mean you have also given consent for the image to be shared or distributed.

While you might have consented to share an image with one person, or to have one taken, this does not mean you consented to sharing it with anyone else.

Is it a criminal offence to post these images on the internet?

Image-based abuse is a developing area of law in Australia. In addition to specific laws on image-based abuse, other laws can apply. How police can help depends on the laws which apply within your state or territory. Find out about what the law is in your state or territory.

Even if there are no specific laws the police can use to assist, you can ask them to record your complaint in a report. This means that if the abuse continues or worsens, there is a clear history of your concerns.

Find out more about legal assistance and how to engage help from police.

Does ‘sharing images’ only refer to posting images on the internet?

No. Common ways intimate images or videos are shared also include:

  • messaging services, such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp
  • multimedia messaging service (MMS) messages
  • email
  • uploading to social media sites, such as Facebook and Instagram
  • image sharing phone apps, for instance, Snapchat.

How do I report image-based abuse to police?

If there are direct threats of harm or if you think there may be criminal implications, you can go straight to your local police station. Find out more about engaging help from police, as well as how to contact your local police station.

Having evidence ready, as well as a clear record of what happened, will save you time and expedite any action the police may take.

Take someone with you as a support person if you need to.

How do I have the images removed or blocked?

Many social media services and websites have taken a strong stand against image-based abuse and will take down images that are reported to them. Another course of action may be to contact the person who shared your image and ask them to remove it. You can report images direct to these sites, block in-coming texts and emails or report them to your service provider. If you would like further assistance, you can make a report to the Office for help and advice from our expert team.

However, some websites, particularly image-sharing boards, may not respond to requests for image removal. If the website appears to be set up with the intent of humiliation or harassment, be cautious in any contact you make and provide as little personal information as possible. Some ‘revenge porn’ sites might use any information you provide to try to embarrass or identify you on their website. For help on what to do if your image is posted on such a website see How to report to an unlisted site.

I have requested that the site remove my images but they are still there, what do I do?

You can follow up with the social media service or website, or you can file a report with the Office of the eSafety Commissioner and we will do our best to have the images removed.

How can I prevent my image being shared?

While it may not be possible to prevent your image being shared further, there are some steps you can take to contain the spread. Search engines like Google and Bing, for example, have a tool to stop image-based abuse pages appearing in Search results. While this doesn’t remove the content, the image or video won’t show up in a Google or Bing search. This also helps with content shared on OneDrive and xBox Live. For more information see How to report to popular sites.

You can also make a report to the Office.

What are my legal options?

In some cases, a lawyer can provide advice about relevant legislation and assistance on how to proceed. Lawyers can advise whether criminal or civil charges could be pursued against the person who shared an image. For legal help, you can:

  1. Access pro bono legal advice through referral services like Justice Connect who may be able to connect you to a lawyer. Note this service is means tested.
  2. Contact community legal centres — these are not-for-profit organisations that provide legal help and related services.
  3. Contact specialised community legal centres such as:

See the legal assistance page for further advice and assistance.

How can I get help for what I am feeling?

When someone experiences image-based abuse it can feel like a betrayal and an invasion of privacy. Many people report feeling anxious, angry, fearful and depressed after discovering image-based abuse. It is important to seek support, whether this is from family members or friends, or from other support services.

What happens if the victim of image-based abuse is under 18 years old?

The guidance on this page is for collecting evidence of image-based abuse concerning adults. Possessing, creating or sharing sexualised images of people under 18 may be a crime. For more information about relevant laws in Australia, visit Lawstuff.

If you encounter child sexual abuse material online, please report it to the Office via our online content reporting form. Reports can be made anonymously. Your reports make a difference. Every image removed helps prevent the re-victimisation of the child or young person involved.

What should I do if a friend has experienced image-based abuse?

If a friend has been the victim of image-based abuse, reassure them that it is not their fault. Let them know that you believe them, that you care and that you’re there to help. Encourage them to speak to a counsellor or support service.

Your friend may feel depressed, anxious and angry. They may behave very differently from normal. Stay in touch. Even if they try to push you away it is a good idea to check in on them and make sure they are OK.

Other ways you can support your friend might be to help them report the abuse to police or seek legal assistance.

You could also help to gather evidence or report the content to the social media service or website where the abuse was posted so it can be taken down.