Australia’s online safety sentinal – the eSafety Commissioner – has launched a new web portal and reporting tool to help Australians who’ve been the victims of image-based abuse.

According to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner, image-based abuse occurs when “intimate, nude or sexual images are distributed without the consent of those pictured. This includes real, altered (e.g. photoshopped) and drawn pictures and videos.”

In a media statement eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said: “This is a world-first government-led initiative, empowering Australians who experience this insidious form of abuse with practical information and a range of options to help resolve their situation and relieve their distress.”

“Australians will be able to report intimate images or videos that have been shared without their consent directly through to our portal,” Ms Inman Grant said.

“We will work with social media providers, websites and search engines to help facilitate the removal of the image-based abuse,” she said.

New research by the eSafety Office reveals the most common social media platforms used to share intimate images without consent were: Facebook/Messenger at 53%, followed by Snapchat at 11% and Instagram at 4%. Text messaging and MMS were other common channels for distribution.

In a recent blog, Ms Inman Grant said the sharing of intimate images between young people had become a routine part of modern-day dating.

“It also represents a new form of peer pressure they are not equipped to resist,” she said.

“While many people may anecdotally understand the risks, few people are prepared for the fallout that ensues once an intimate image is shared online.” According to 2017 research by RMIT University, 1 in 5 Australians aged between 16 and 49 have experienced image-based abuse, with young women (18-24) the most common victims.”

Ms Inman Grant said the eSafety Office had had received about 400 complaints of image-based abuse.

“It’s important to remember behind each of these images is a person, feeling violated and powerless. Many victims who have been exposed in this way experience long-term anxiety, fear and depression. This is a fear that never really dissipates—not knowing where or when their compromising photos will pop up and be shown to friends, family, work colleagues or current partner.”

Ms Inman Grant called out the culture of inaction by “bystanders” who “see the images … know it’s wrong, yet they still do nothing”.

“We all have a role to play in creating a culture of respect, where the ‘upstanders’ outnumber the bystanders and where we no longer tolerate or trivialise image-based abuse,” she said.

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