– article by Asher Flynn, Anastasia Powell and Nicola Henry

A Senate inquiry into “revenge porn” is due to report next week. This will put this important social and legal issue back on the news and policy reform agenda.

The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee defines “revenge porn” as involving:

… sharing private sexual images and recordings of a person without their consent, with the intention to cause that person harm.

The practice has emerged so rapidly that it is inevitable the law is playing catch-up. Yet in the absence of adequate laws specifically criminalising these wrongs, victims have limited access to justice.

More than revenge

Research suggests that, beyond “revenge”, sexual and intimate images are being used to coerce, threaten, harass and abuse victims.

We’ve written previously about the potential harms, which extend beyond the vengeful actions of a jilted lover and cross over into domestic and sexual violence. The seriousness of this social and legal problem is increasingly being recognised. This has led to calls for the introduction of a specific federal law.

While a broader federal offence exists, to our knowledge this charge has been used only once in relation to revenge pornography. As the Commonwealth director of public prosecutions recently warned:

[Existing] federal laws are not properly protecting women from so-called ‘revenge porn’ attacks.
In this way, Australian federal law has not kept pace with evolving behaviours where technology is used to perpetrate violence or harassment.

A federal criminal offence

The majority of the 32 submissions made to the Senate inquiry support the criminalisation of revenge pornography.

As the Law Council of Australia explained, a federal criminal offence would offer a “uniform approach” across Australian states and territories. This is important “in the digital age where images can be distributed and accessed instantly in any jurisdiction”.

Read the full article in The Conversation.