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For family and friends

Family and friends play an important role in helping people who have been through image-based abuse.

Support that is unconditional, focuses on the victim’s experience and does not blame them is the most useful.

How do targets of image-based abuse feel?

Research into image-based abuse shows that 11% of Australians have had an intimate image or videos shared without their consent. From this research, and speaking with people who have experienced image-based abuse, we know that this kind of abuse can be very damaging.

It is common for people who have experienced image-based abuse to feel a range of emotions like shame, embarrassment, humiliation, anger, fear, anxiety and a sense of helplessness. People who have experienced image-based abuse may suffer further trauma if they have to deal with critical comments or ongoing harassment from strangers who have viewed their photo.

The person who has experienced image-based abuse may find it hard to tell friends and family what happened and share their feelings. But the support of caring people can be invaluable.

What can you do?

Research shows that people who have experienced image-based abuse often turn to friends and family first for reassurance and support.

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 them. 

Some people hold out-dated views that blame victims of image-based abuse, when the blame should fall squarely on the person or people responsible for the image-based abuse. These opinions are unhelpful and can add stress to an already difficult situation.

You can make a huge difference to any friend or relative who has, or is, experiencing image-based abuse. Just being there for them helps.

Here are some things you can do to reassure and support them

  • Remind them that they have done nothing wrong — the person who shared their image is the one who is to blame. Tell them you are on their side and are there for them.
  • Tell them how upset you are for them and remind them that things will get better as time passes.
  • Ask how you can help them and what they need from you.
  • Listen to the person who experienced the abuse and avoid comparing them to yourself or others.
  • Be there when they need to talk.
  • Help them do things they enjoy — see a movie together, take them out, go for a walk together or cook them a meal.
  • Do not ask why they took or shared the image or video in the first place. It can sometimes make the person who experienced the abuse feel like they are to blame.
  • Refer them to support, ways to take action and legal assistance on this website. 
  • You can also help them to make an image-based abuse report to eSafety and our team will do what we can to help, including working to have the images removed if they have been posted online.
  • We encourage everyone to report image-based abuse to us, however you can also report images and videos to social media services and websites. If that is what they want, help them report the abusive content to the site or service where it was posted and ask for the content to be removed. The eSafety Guide includes online safety information and direct reporting links.

If you notice they are depressed, anxious, have changes in mood, sleep, eating, energy levels or willingness to socialise, tell them you are worried about them. Tell them you want them to get help from a counsellor or psychologist and offer to go with them. You can find a qualified provider on our list of counselling services.

Quick guide for family and friends

A quick guide on how to support a friend or relative who is experiencing image-based abuse is available at the link below.

Did this happen to your child?

If your child’s intimate photo or video has been posted online, here are some steps you can take to help:

Take a deep breath and remember children and young people are growing up in a world that is quite different to that of most parents. As we spend more time online, it is common for teenagers to send and receive nudes. The best thing you can do at the outset is support and reassure them.

Make it clear that they will get through this and that you will support them throughout the process.

Avoid shaming your child. Whether you agree with the original photo being taken or not, your child relies on you to protect them. So, reassure your child you will continue to support and love them. This is critical in helping to protect their mental health.

Show your child our advice for young people on what to do if their nudes have been shared, ways to respond if they are receiving unwanted nudes, what they can do if they are being pressured to send nudes, and if someone is threatening to share their nudes.

Read our advice for parents on sending nudes and sexting and the ‘hard to have’ conversations.

Ask your child to think about what they would say if this happened to a close friend, and then help them to apply those same kind, caring words to themselves.

Work through the practical steps provided on this website to try to get the image removed.

If your child is being blackmailed or pressured to send images or videos, this is known as sextortion. It is important to have age-appropriate conversations with your child to explain what sextortion is. Let your child know that sextortion happens when someone threatens to share intimate images of them online unless they give in to their demands. Let them know they should speak to a relative or teacher if they experience it. And that you can help them make an image-based abuse report to eSafety.

If you feel your child’s school can help, contact the school to ensure they are looking out for concerning behaviour directed towards your child, such as shaming or bullying.

Keep your child connected to supportive friends and family. Encourage your child to keep doing activities that make them feel happy.

Understand that your child may feel betrayed and broken hearted. This pain could be made worse by friends and bystanders making comments online and in-person to your child. This pain is very real but reassure them that it will lessen over time — and things will get better.

This situation can be heart-wrenching for any parent, so if you find this too challenging to handle on your own, consider reaching out.

Find a support and counselling service

Headspace

12 to 25 year olds. All issues. Phone counselling available all day, every day. Online chat available 9am to 1am EST daily.

Kids Helpline

5 to 25 year olds. All issues. Confidential phone counselling available all day, every day. Online chat available 8am to 12am EST daily.

Support services