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“It impacts your education, employability, interpersonal relationships, mental health – everything about your life is impacted.”

Reports of image-based abuse to eSafety increased by 172 per cent between March and September when compared to the same period in 2019.

The majority of this abuse stems from relationship retribution or sextortion – when someone threatens to share intimate images unless their demands are met. Cases of doctored images are not uncommon, the eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said.

The abuse is when an intimate image or video is shared without consent. This type of abuse is used to threaten, harass, objectify and coerce people.

Ms Inman Grant said the recent increase may be due to more people using digital intimacy tools to share affection during lockdowns.

“It is important to recognise the impact is devastating,” Ms Inman Grant said. “Once the image is on the internet, you can never take it back.”

While the commission has an 85 per cent success rate in removing content, the perpetrator may have shared the photo hundreds of times across different platforms, providing no guarantee the content has not been further downloaded, screenshot or reshared, she said.

As technology continues to evolve, Ms Inman Grant warns this type of abuse could become more common.

A 2017 report by the commission, which surveyed 4122 people, found 11 per cent of those aged over 18 had experienced image-based abuse. It also found women were twice as likely to have their sexual images shared without consent.

Eight years on, Ms Martin is using her experience to raise awareness of image-based abuse and let others in similar positions know they are not alone.

“They have nothing to be ashamed about and there is help and there is support and there are also avenues for justice,” she said. “This doesn’t have to define them, they can come out the other end.”

In a bid to crackdown on image-based abuse, the state government and eSafety have launched a joint social media campaign to increase awareness.

Minister for Women Bronnie Taylor said women aged 18 to 24 are among those most at risk, but warned image-based abuse could happen to anyone.

“This campaign highlights everything you need to know about image-based abuse, from reporting an offence to accessing counselling and having images or videos removed from social media and search engines,” she said.

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Attorney-General and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence Mark Speakman said government reforms also aimed to address this type of abuse.

“Courts [are] now able to order an offender to remove, retract, delete or destroy an intimate image when found guilty of threatening to distribute it without consent to give traumatised victims some peace of mind,” he said.

Anyone experiencing abuse can report it to esafety.gov.au/report or call 1800 RESPECT
(1800 737 732) for 24/7 support and referrals.

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