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Federal

Jan 15, 2016

Don't call it 'revenge porn', victims' groups say

Submissions from experts to a Senate inquiry into "revenge porn" overwhelmingly support a change in the nomenclature.

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Women’s services and legal experts have told a parliamentary inquiry not to use the term “revenge porn” because it encourages victim-blaming and attempts to justify the actions of those post nude photos online without their subjects’ consent.

Labor MPs Tim Watts and Terri Butler last year sponsored a private member’s bill to amend the Criminal Code in order to criminalise so-called “revenge porn”, where people share intimate photos online without permission with the intent to humiliate or shame the subject.

A Senate inquiry into the issue was launched in November; submissions have been published this week.

The overwhelming majority of submissions came from women’s organisations. There is limited data on who revenge porn most affects in Australia, but Victims Support Service South Australia cited the UK’s revenge porn helpline, which stated that 75% of victims seeking advice were women.

One submission from a member of the public highlighted a recent Sunrise story where the term was used, and the program subsequently asked when women would stop taking and sharing nude photos:

“The behaviour is not always motivated by revenge, and framing it as such suggests the victim has done something to deserve or provoke being harassed, intimidated or humiliated. Further, the images or recording may not necessarily fit within the definition of pornography, and labelling it as such may be offensive to victims.”

Women’s Legal Services NSW says “revenge porn” is a misnomer that unduly focuses on the actions of the victim “categorising their actions as pornography and victim blaming, rather than focusing squarely on real harm, which is caused by the perpetrator”. The service suggested the term “non-consensual sharing of intimate sexual images”.

Sexual Assault Support Service says that “image-based sexual exploitation” should be used because “revenge porn” implies a single motive behind the actions for someone to post  images or video online.

Domestic Violence Victoria says the practice needs to be considered in the context of domestic violence, with perpetrators using the threat of posting intimate images online as a means of power and control over a partner or ex-partner. The organisation says the notion of consent, and ensuring it is expressly and freely given, should be central to any legislation:

“In the context of family violence, it’s important to recognise the highly problematic nature of consent because women in this situation may not feel able to refuse to participate in the production of images or materials and/or to consent to their subsequent distribution. Due consideration must therefore be given to the limitations to the personal agency of those in a family violence situation.”

Several submissions complain that it is difficult to permanently remove images and videos online. The Top End Women’s Legal Service says in its submission that while many sites have feedback or complaints forms to get photos removed, in some cases the service has to research to find the owner of the website to have the photos removed.

But a group of social media and tech companies including Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft called for the government to consider existing laws and the policies that the sites have in place to remove such content. If a decision is made to criminalise the posting of intimate images online without consent, the companies have asked the government to limit their own liability in any legislation:

“Addressing this issue cannot be done by legislation alone … there must be a coordinated initiative across government, industry and the community to promote awareness of a sense of responsibility that should dissuade people from undertaking the non-consensual sharing of images and that there are serious consequences for doing so.”

Some submissions warned against unnecessarily doubling up on existing legislation that could be used to prosecute people sharing intimate images without consent. ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell, for instance, argued that existing laws in the ACT can lead to prosecutions. However, the data provided to the committee for the period between July 2012 and August 2015 suggests that, over three years, most people convicted of stalking or using a carriage service to harass received good-behaviour bonds.

The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, however, stated there were limited existing Commonwealth laws to deal with deliberately sharing intimate photos online without consent.

Submissions closed yesterday, and the committee is due to report back to Parliament by the end of February. The government has previously indicated it will await the outcome of a COAG review on the matter before deciding whether to support the Watts-Butler legislation.

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3 comments

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3 thoughts on “Don’t call it ‘revenge porn’, victims’ groups say

  1. Itsarort

    The “A” in “alpha-male” stands for “Arsehole”; don’t let the wrong one in…

  2. Norman Hanscombe

    That you felt the need to concentrate on “revenge porn”, Joshua, suggests that the Crikey Capitalist Enterprise believes the economic situation is far better than most of us do.

  3. AR

    Bring back the Polaroid – one print and very dodgy permanency.

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