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Frequently asked Questions

These FAQs provide an overview of key issues and terminology relating to image-based abuse.

What is image-based abuse?

Image-based abuse occurs when an intimate image or video is shared without the consent of the person pictured. This includes images and videos that have been digitally altered (using Photoshop or specialised software). Image-based abuse also includes the threat of an intimate image being shared.

An intimate image is one that shows:

  • a person’s genital area or anal area (whether bare or covered by underwear)
  • a person’s breasts (if the person identifies as female, transgender or intersex)
  • private activity (for example a person undressing, using the bathroom, showering, bathing or engaged in sexual activity)
  • a person without attire of religious or cultural significance if they would normally wear such attire in public

Image-based abuse also includes the threat of an image being shared.  

Examples of image-based abuse include:

  • Your current or ex-partner shares an intimate image on social media without your consent.
  • A work colleague Photoshops an image of you with an explicit image and shares it broadly via email.
  • A person threatening to post your intimate video on social media and send it to your family and friends.
  • A person anonymously posting your intimate image on a porn website.

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

If the image-based abuse is part of domestic and family violence or other abuse, staying safe is your number one priority.

 

If you are feeling unsafe now, call the police on Triple Zero (000). 

 

Your safety is important to us. If you are experiencing domestic or family violence, before taking steps to get the images removed, make sure you have a safety plan in place. Especially if the person responsible is also abusive offline. 

If you do not already have a safety plan, contact 1800RESPECT for help with safety planning.

Safety planning is important to protect you in case the person responsible gets more abusive once the image or video is removed or the account is deleted. 

You will find more options for support and counselling services in the support section of this website.

Police help

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

Removing images, preserving evidence and taking action

Find out more about how you can take action to try to get images removed or delete or block accounts. Before you report image-based abuse, it is important to collect evidence of the abuse

Preserving evidence may be useful when reporting to eSafety (report image-based abuse to eSafety), social media services or websites, or if you  report the matter to the police or seek legal assistance.

Image-based abuse is also sometimes known as ‘revenge porn’. This term can be misleading as not all image-based abuse is about ‘revenge’ or ‘porn’. As RMIT research explains, ‘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 is sometimes also called:

  • non-consensual porn
  • non-consensual sexual/nude/intimate image sharing
  • technology-facilitated abuse
  • intimate image abuse
  • image-based sexual abuse
  • cyber exploitation
  • cyber sexual abuse
  • sextortion
  • sexploitation

Read the eSafety Commissioner’s blog about why the term image-based abuse should be used.

‘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. They may encourage victims to pay money to have their images removed.

The most well-known ‘revenge porn’ websites are hosted overseas. It is best not to contact these sites directly.

If you find your images on a ‘revenge porn’ website, report to us and we will do our best to get your images removed.

Sextortion is a form of blackmail where a perpetrator threatens to reveal intimate images of you online unless you give in to their demands. These demands are typically for money or bitcoin, but are sometimes for further intimate images or sexual favours.

Online scammers frequently target their victims after meeting them on a social media service or dating site. These scammers can be individuals, but commonly organised crime is behind sextortion. 

Never pay a blackmailer. For more information about sextortion see our page on how to deal with sextortion.

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

The Enhancing Online Safety Act 2015 defines an ‘intimate image’ as an image or video that shows, or appears to show:

  • a person’s genital area or anal area (whether bare or covered by underwear)
  • a person’s breasts (if the person identifies as female, transgender or intersex)
  • private activity (for example a person undressing, using the bathroom, showering, bathing or engaged in sexual activity)
  • a person without attire of religious or cultural significance if they would normally wear such attire in public

This includes photos and videos that have been digitally altered (or Photoshopped).

For instance, if a person’s head is Photoshopped onto a porn actor’s body and is shared without consent, this is image-based abuse.

Image-based abuse happens when someone has shared an intimate, nude or sexual image or video of you online, without your consent. This consent must be ‘express, voluntary and informed’. Under the Enhancing Online Safety Act 2015 a person under the age of 18 cannot consent to their intimate image being shared. This means it is against the law to share an image of someone under the age of 18, even if they tell you they agree.

Sharing your intimate image with one person does not give them permission to share it with others or for other people to have or see this image.

We have factsheets in languages other than English.

Image-based abuse is more common than you might think. 11% of Australians aged 18 and over have experienced image-based abuse. It impacts people no matter their age, race, gender, sexual orientation, education or bank balance.

However, research commissioned by the Office of the eSafety Commissioner shows that it is more common among some groups including Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders, women aged 18 to 24 years, lesbian, gay, bisexual and or intersex (LGBTI) people, and those who speak a language other than English at home.

For more information see image-based abuse research and infographics.

People who share images without consent do so for many 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 may do so for other reasons such as sexual gratification, to gain social status or to profit from trading intimate images.

Image-based abuse can also be part of a pattern of controlling and abusive behaviour in a domestic and family violence situation. In this case, the perpetrator deliberately tries to create fear and/or shame.

Online scammers also use intimate images for monetary gain by blackmailing people over their images. Organised crime is often behind this type of blackmail (often called ‘sextortion’) and they often use social media or dating sites to make initial contact with their targets.  

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. Image-based abuse is not acceptable.

If you initially consented to the image being shared or posted, and now no longer want it posted, you can still report the image to us by making an image-based abuse report. In this situation your report to us is known as an ‘objection’. We may be able to help with getting the image removed, but in this case we cannot take any action against the person who posted the image.

It is a crime under federal law to share private sexual material of another adult person without their consent. Creating, possessing and/or sharing sexualised images of people under 18 years can also be a crime under federal, state and territory laws.

Most states and territories also have criminal laws that are specific to image-based abuse, as well as other criminal laws that may apply. Find out about what the law is in your state or territory.

How police can help depends on a range of factors including the laws which apply in your state or territory and the particular circumstances of your case. This may include what evidence there is of the image-based abuse, whether you know who is responsible for it, and whether the person responsible is in Australia or overseas. 

Even if police are not able 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 get help from police.

No – images can be ‘posted’ on a social media service, website, or shared electronically.  Common ways intimate images or videos are shared include:

  • posting on social media services, such as Facebook and Instagram
  • posting on a website, such as an image board or porn site
  • messaging services, such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp
  • multimedia messaging service (MMS) messages
  • email

If someone has shared or has threatened to share an intimate image of you, you can make an image-based abuse report to us.

The Enhancing Online Safety Act 2015 (the Act) establishes a civil penalties scheme to address image-based abuse.

This scheme allows victims of image-based abuse to make a report (complaint or objection notice) to the eSafety Commissioner. In response to a report, we may be able to take removal action. In some cases, we may also be able to take action against the person who posted, or threatened to post, an intimate image without consent. Where possible, we will contact you to discuss the steps we might take.

If you think the image-based abuse is unlawful and wish to report it to police, you can go straight to your local police station. Find out how to get help from police, as well as how to contact your local police station.

Our what to take to police template will help you prepare the information you need to report image-based abuse to police.

Having evidence ready, as well as a clear record of what happened, will help explain what has happened to the police.

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

Remember, if you have immediate concerns for your safety, call police on Triple Zero (000).

If someone has shared, or has threatened to share, an intimate image of you, you can report image-based abuse to us.

Many social media services and websites have taken a strong stand against image-based abuse and will remove intimate images that are reported to them. We can help with removal but if you prefer you can report images direct to these sites.

Once you have taken screenshots and reported the user to the social media site and eSafety, block the person responsible. Also, block any incoming texts and emails from the abusive person. 

Your safety is important to us. If you are experiencing domestic or family violence, before taking steps to get the images removed, make sure you have a safety plan in place. If you do not already have a safety plan, contact 1800RESPECT for help with safety planning.

See the eSafety Guide for reporting links and tips on protecting your personal information.

If you are concerned that your intimate image will be shared or further shared, make an image-based abuse report to eSafety, so that we can discuss your options with you. 

One option might be to ask Google to remove your image from Google search results. For more information see the eSafety Guide.

Sharing or threatening to share an intimate image without consent is unlawful in Australia. If someone has done this to you, you can make an image-based abuse report to us and you can also report to the police.

You may also want to speak to a lawyer for legal advice on your options. See legal assistance.

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.

People under 18 can make an image-based abuse report to us, or have someone, like a parent or other trusted adult, make a report on their behalf. Also, parents and guardians can make a report if their child is under 16.

Under the Enhancing Online Safety Act 2015, a person under 18 cannot consent to their intimate image being shared or posted. 

When a victim of image-based abuse is under 18 different criminal laws may apply. Possessing, creating or sharing sexualised images of people under 18 may be unlawful. For more information about relevant laws in Australia, visit Youth Law Australia.

If you encounter child sexual abuse material online, please report it to eSafety 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.

If a friend has experienced image-based abuse, reassure them that it is not their fault. Let them know that you believe them, that you care about them and that you are 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 gather evidence, make an image-based abuse report to eSafety for help and advice from our expert team, report the abuse to police or get legal assistance.

Staying safe

If you are feeling unsafe now, call the police on Triple Zero (000).

If you are experiencing image-based abuse as part of an abusive relationship, contact 1800RESPECT for help with safety planning. Learn more and connect with support.