It’s not easy to know what to do when someone has shared a nude, intimate or sexual image of you without your consent.
This ‘quick guide’ shows you:
- How to connect with support services
- How to request the removal of images, and
- Some of your legal options.
1. What is image-based abuse?
Image-based abuse occurs when intimate, nude or sexual images are distributed without the consent of those pictured. This can include real, altered (i.e. Photoshopped) and drawn pictures and videos.
It is also image-based abuse if someone threatens to share intimate images against your will. Some people call image-based abuse ‘revenge porn’, but in many cases it is not about ‘revenge’ or ‘porn’.
It can occur for a range of reasons and can include many kinds of images and video. Other people call it ‘non-consensual sharing of intimate images’, or ‘intimate image abuse’.
Examples of image-based abuse include:
- Your current or ex-partner sharing an intimate image on social media without your consent.
- Someone Photoshopping an image of you with an explicit image and sharing it broadly via email.
- A stranger taking an intimate photo without your consent, also known as ‘up-skirting’ or ‘down-blousing’ or ‘creepshots’, and sharing it on a website or porn site.
Around 20% of Australians have experienced image-based abuse.^
Image-based abuse impacts people regardless of their age, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, education or bank balance.
But there are some groups of people who are more likely to experience the sharing of intimate images without consent. This includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (25%).^^
2. How does image-based abuse affect people?
It is different for everyone.
You might feel annoyed, angry, humiliated, embarrassed, overwhelmed, depressed or downright devastated. It can be terrifying to discover that a very personal picture of you has been shared against your will, and that this image may now be out of your control. For lots of people, the thought that friends, family or Elders might see it is awful.
Image-based abuse can affect lots of areas of your life. People who have experienced this say it has affected the way they feel about themselves, their mental health, and their relationships with friends, family and intimate partners. Victims of image-based abuse also describe negative effects on their school work, study and performance at work.
Some people blame victims of image-based abuse for having a nude photo taken of them in the first place. But even if someone agrees to share a nude or intimate image with one person, or to have one taken, this does not mean they have agreed to share it with anyone else. They can also withdraw their consent or permission at any time.
So it is not a victim’s fault if their image is shared - the blame should fall squarely upon the person or people who shared it.
If you have been a target of image-based abuse, remember it is not your fault and you are not alone.
There are some key things you can do to take action and access support. If you have been affected by image-based abuse and would like emotional support, please contact one of the counselling and support services listed below.
3. What do you do if an intimate 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
We understand you might want to remove the image or video of you straight away but if you are in an abusive or violent relationship, your safety must come first.
You may need a safety plan in place before you try to have an image removed so speak to police, a support service or a lawyer first. This is because the person who shared your image may react violently once they see the image or video has been removed. This is particularly important if the person posting the abuse is also abusive to you or others offline.
If you contact police, you can ask to speak to an Aboriginal Community Liaison Officer.
If someone is blackmailing or controlling you by threatening to share an intimate image or video of you, contact police or seek support from the services listed below before you remove an image.
Threats like this are called sextortion and may have legal consequences. You can also make a report to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner. If you are unsure if this is sextortion we can help direct you to the appropriate support services.
Support and counselling
There are specialist services to support Aboriginal communities that may be able to help.
- Social and Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health Services in Aboriginal Australia
- Australian Indigenous Health Infonet
There are a number of support and counselling services to help deal with the emotional effects of imagebased abuse for all Australians. Some are available free of charge. These include:
All ages. Counselling for anyone affected by sexual assault or domestic and family violence (including family members). Open 24 hours daily.
16-25 year olds. All issues. Online resources only (no telephone/online chat support).
All ages. Counselling and referral for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and/or intersex. Open 3pm-12am in your state, every day.
Remember, if you, or a friend, has experienced image-based abuse, you are not alone. The Office of the eSafety Commissioner is here to help. You can find more information on available support services.
Friends and family
Friends and family have a very important role to play in helping victims of image-based abuse. You might want to talk to your aunties or uncles or an Elder for support.
Friends and family who offer unconditional support, focus on the victim’s experience, and do not blame the victim, are the most helpful. A guide for friends and family is available here.
You will find more information on how to remove images below. But it is important to make a record of the abuse first.
You may need evidence of the image-based abuse to:
- Report it to the site or social media service where it was posted.
- Show police exactly what has happened.
If you have been the victim of image-based abuse you may be able to take legal action.
For more information on how to collect and preserve evidence of image-based abuse, please see this simple guide.
4. How can I get an image or video of me taken down?
There are some key steps you can take to have images or video removed. These include reporting the material to a social media service or website to have it taken down, making a report to the Office and contacting the person who posted your image.
1. Report an image to the website or social media service it is posted on
Most major websites and social media services have policies that prohibit the posting or sharing of intimate images without consent. They also provide specific instructions for reporting and take down.
The image-based abuse portal has a list of popular sites that have these instructions. The portal also provides advice about what you can do if your image is posted on an unlisted website or service. These can include websites that promote abuse (also known as ‘revenge porn’ sites). You can also learn how to block your images from search results in Google and Microsoft Bing.
For more information see this guide on useful links for removing images.
2. Report an image to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner
You can make a report to the Office if:
- You are worried about contacting a website or social media service yourself
- You need help to contact a service or website
- You have tried, but the image is still online
Our expert team are ready to work with you and find the best way to help.
3. Contact the person with your image
An initial course of action could be to ask the person who has shared your image to remove or delete the image. You can let them know they do not have consent to share or post your image.
An example of the kind of message you could send is provided here.
However, if you fear for your safety, or are experiencing image-based abuse as part of an abusive relationship, it is best to try other options.
5. What are my legal options?
If someone has shared nude, sexual or intimate images of you, or is threatening to do so, there may be laws to protect you.
The Federal Government is looking at ways to strengthen laws to better protect Australians against image-based abuse.
Get help from the police
If you contact police, you can ask to speak to an Aboriginal Community Liaison Officer. Local police can apply for a protection order to protect you from a violent or abusive partner or person, if you need this.
The Office’s image-based abuse portal provides an Australia-wide overview of relevant Commonwealth laws and state laws as a guide.
If you report image-based abuse to police you will need to take detailed information about what has happened to help in any investigations. A simple guide about how to collect evidence can be found here.
A lawyer or legal service can help by discussing:
- Your legal options
- Which laws exist in your state or territory
- How to apply for a protection order if you need one
Your lawyer can also speak to the police with you, if required.
For specialist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services, please visit the following websites:
Advice on where to get other legal advice, including pro bono legal assistance, can be found here.
6. The Office of the eSafety Commissioner
The Federal Government has given the Office of the eSafety Commissioner the primary role in helping support victims of image-based abuse. The Office’s image-based abuse portal gives victims access to a range of resources and assistance.
The office provides:
- Information and advice, including when to approach Police, options for legal assistance, and relevant laws in Australia.
- Reporting options—how to report image-based abuse to popular social media sites, as well as how to report an image to the Office, and what to expect.
- Image removal—The Office can also advise about options to request image take down, based on the specific details of a report.
- If you need legal advice or support from a counselling service, the portal has links to help.
- Resources, including information and contacts, as well as case studies and videos about different types of image-based abuse from people who have experienced it.
^Henry, Nicola & Powell, Anastasia & Flynn, Asher & Gendered Violence and Abuse Research Alliance & RMIT University. Centre for Global Research et al. (2017). Not just ‘revenge pornography’: Australians’ experiences of image-based abuse: a summary report. RMIT University, Melbourne. This research covered three behaviors: the taking without consent, the sharing without consent and threats to share.
^^Research commissioned by the Office of the eSafety Commissioner, May 2017. Indicates it is 11% for the total population aged 18 years and over. Respondents included 3,216 online women aged 15+, and 903 online men aged 18+ in Australia.