Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 6 (7 June) . .
Her boyfriend and friends urged her not to take action. They didn't want the boy that had shared the images or other friends who might have passed them along getting in trouble.
They didn't feel that would be fair. She did her own investigation and found folders with images of three other girls she had been at school with. She contacted them but they didn't want to act. They were scared of drawing more attention to the images and hoped by not acting the issue would eventually go away. They were ashamed.
She described the pain she felt at seeing her image being traded like a footy card, at seeing her image abused and dehumanised by anonymous people who made up lies, rated her body and used callous threats and abuse with abandon.
She felt sick and powerless and completely alone.
This has impacted her sense of safety. She feels hunted, she feels dehumanised. She knows the perpetrator has not had any similar repercussions—nor have those who anonymously share and comment on her image.
I wish this was only an isolated incident, but it is not. In the article that I referred to, the police in New South Wales are quoted as having received 350 complaints in the past six months, and that is only those with the courage to come forward. Countless others suffer in silence, across all community groups.
In the RMIT report, the following statistics highlight the full extent of the problem: one in three people aged 16 to 19, and one in four aged 20 to 29, reported at least one form of image victimisation; women, 22 per cent, and men, 23 per cent, were equally likely to be victimised; 56 per cent of people with a disability and 50 per cent of Indigenous Australians have been victims of image-based abuse; and people who identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual were more likely to be victims, at 36 per cent, than heterosexual people, at 21 per cent.
These figures tell how many have been affected, but the report goes on to show how damaging these effects are. Eighty per cent of people who had experienced "sextortion" reported high levels of psychological distress, consistent with moderate to severe depression and/or anxiety disorder, with 46 per cent also feeling highly fearful for their safety. Moderate to severe depression and/or anxiety affected 75 per cent of victims whose images were distributed, and 67 per cent of those whose images were taken without consent. Thirty-nine per cent of people whose images were distributed and 28 per cent of those whose images were taken without consent felt highly fearful for their safety.
From stories we read in the media, to reports from police, to studies by academic researchers, it is clear we have a serious problem with serious impacts. The bill that I have tabled today seeks to address these problems; to bring consequences to the perpetrators and to bring justice to the victims.
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