Page 2767 - Week 08 - Wednesday, 16 August 2017
This is a real problem that we are dealing with here today, and it is a growing problem. Within the ACT, until today, it has been a problem without a proper solution. An RMIT report earlier this year showed that one in five Australians may fall victim, and as many as one in three young people. Recent articles have highlighted just how damaging this type of abuse can be. Many stories have emerged, including one from 5 April this year, where the victim—and I quote:
… 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.
After we pass this bill today there will be repercussions for these sorts of offences, and very serious ones. It will now be a crime in the ACT to commit the act described in that media article. The worst offenders will face a maximum of three years jail or a very large penalty. We hope that this will stop and prevent much of the harm we have seen done by these actions.
It will also provide for rectification, whereby a court can order the person who posted the images to do everything within their power to remove those images. We hope that will try to repair some of the harm. We also hope that, with the penalties, the rectification and the very fact that this is now on our statute books as a serious crime, it will, importantly, prevent some of this harm from happening in the future.
There is no doubt that this is an important, serious issue. I have just used the example of a young woman to illustrate the harm that can be done. But this is not something that affects just one gender. In fact the RMIT report showed that this is a widespread problem that is balanced, in terms of victims, between both genders. Women, at 22 per cent, and men, at 23 per cent, were broadly equally likely to be victimised. Fifty-six per cent of people with a disability and 50 per cent of Indigenous Australians had been victims of image-based abuse. 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. One in three people aged between 16 and 19 and one in four between 20 and 29 reported at least one form of image victimisation. We are not, therefore, singling out any group. We need to recognise that this is a widespread problem and that these laws we are passing today will help all people.
Having outlined the key offence provisions, I would like to talk about the exceptions and protections that we have included. We have tried to draft exceptions and protections that indicate clearly what the intent of this legislation is, which is the knowing or reckless distribution of intimate images without consent. That is why, as an example, we have provided important protections for young people. If a young person consents to these images, it is not a crime if that person is within two years age of the other person. If there is a larger age gap, the provisions will apply. This is consistent with other parts of the Criminal Code, and one of the government amendments is to ensure this consistency. We believe this is a balanced and appropriate response to not only protect the rights and freedoms of the young but also protect them from harm should the worst occur.