The ACT Greens have called for an expansion of education programs in the ACT to include more specific information on intimate image abuse.
The call comes after a report released last week by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) showed 28% of young people (aged 16-24) surveyed believed that “if a woman sends a nude image to her partner, then she is partly responsible if he shares it without her permission”.
ACT Greens MLA and spokesperson for women Caroline Le Couteur said “education is key” when it comes informing young people, and suggested an expansion of cyberbullying education to include intimate image abuse.
“What we need is better education of our young people. We’re having some education in schools – there’s education about cyberbullying and there’s education about consent and respectful relationships – but this is an area where clearly young people are not being treated the way they expect to be treated,” she said.
“Young women in particular who share intimate images of themselves with their partner at the time don’t expect it to go further. What happens is that their image is shared with their mates, then with their mates and it gets totally out of control and they’ve got no way of stopping that once it happens.
“Generally speaking, the person whose image was taken shared it freely with their partner. And so from that point of view people don’t see it as bullying, but then it goes on and on to more and more people, and that becomes partly bullying and partly just straight exploitation,” she said.
The ACT Legislative Assembly passed legislation in 2017 with regards to the sharing of intimate images without consent, which holds a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment, or five years if the person in the image is under 16 years old.
Ms Le Couteur said while the ACT has come a long way with regards to strengthening the legal framework around the sharing of intimate images, there is still “an enormous way to go” in tackling the attitudes of young people.
“This latest report tells us that many young people are still confused about what consent is, and what constitutes controlling behaviours such as non-consensual sharing of intimate images,” she said.
“We need to send a clear message that it’s just not okay to send intimate images of a person to others, without their consent. It’s also not okay to share these images with other people, or on social media, without their consent.”
The ANROWS report also contained findings about young people’s attitudes around consent more broadly, particularly with regards to a woman’s right to consent, including: 18% of young people (24% of young men, 13% of young women) believed that “women find it flattering to be persistently pursued, even if they are not interested”; 17% of young people believed “since some women are so sexual in public, it’s not surprising that some men think they can touch women without permission”; and 28% believed “when a man is sexually aroused, he may not even realise that the woman doesn’t want to have sex”.