Legal case studies

Seeking assistance from a lawyer is one option for victims of image-based abuse. The following case studies outline a number of real-life experiences told by those who have taken a legal path.

Adriana and James*

Adriana and her husband James lived in Brisbane. Adriana found that James had created fake online profiles of her on an adult dating website, using sexually explicit photos with degrading and humiliating descriptions of her.

Adriana was horrified and reported the incident to the police.

The police charged James with a section of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth), for committing the offence of ‘using a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence’.

James pleaded guilty to the charge. The judge stated that what James did amounted to family violence and asked that James undergo psychological assessment and counselling, as well as a behavioural change program.

In addition to legal proceedings, Adriana contacted the adult dating website where her images were posted, and they helped her take down the profiles that included images of her. The site also prevented James from creating more accounts.

*The names and identifying details in this story have been changed to protect the privacy of the people involved.

Layla and Ben*

Layla and Ben were university students and high school sweethearts. Ben and Layla took intimate photos of one another, consensually, when Layla was 17 and Ben was 18. Ben saved these onto a cloud storage device and never distributed them. To his horror, one of Ben’s friends told him that intimate images of Layla were publicly available on a few sites.

Ben reported the incident to the police as well as to the eSafety Commissioner.

He informed them that at the time some of the images were taken, Layla was under 18.

The eSafety Commissioner was able to have the images taken down, and continues to take action with the site every time an intimate image of Layla is uploaded.

*The names and identifying details in this story have been changed to protect the privacy of the people involved.

Caroline and Neil

Caroline and Neil were fly-in fly-out employees in a mining company when they began a romantic relationship. They stayed together at Neil’s house every fortnight or so, and during the course of their relationship, sent each other intimate photos of themselves. Neil also took intimate photographs of Caroline with her knowledge and consent, and on several occasions, Caroline sent Neil intimate videos of herself.

After dating for a year Caroline believed Neil was cheating on her and ended their relationship by text message. After he received the break-up message, Neil posted 16 intimate photographs and two intimate videos of Caroline onto his Facebook page, making the content visible to 300 ‘Facebook friends’.

Caroline went on to sue Neil and the civil law case was brought before the Supreme Court of Western Australia. During the trial, Caroline outlined that the intimate images were shared with Neil on the understanding that they would be kept private, and not be shared with others.

The court found in favour of Caroline.

They held that Neil posting the intimate content online constituted a breach of confidence. Caroline was awarded damages, compensated not just for economic loss arising from her inability to work for a period of time, but also $35,000 as an effort to compensate her for the humiliation, anxiety and distress that Neil had caused.

This is a summary of Wilson v Ferguson (2015) WASC 15.