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Revenge porn impacts New Zealanders across generations, study finds

New Zealanders across generations are the victims of image-based sexual abuse, also known as revenge porn, new research has found. 

In a first-of-its-kind study, Netsafe investigated the impact of the abuse - finding 5 per cent of New Zealand adults have been the victim of online image-based abuse, with instances reported by people over 70 years old.

Jan Logie, the Government's domestic and sexual violence spokesperson, said that the results were not surprising. 

"We've been hearing for quite a long time that this behaviour has been on the increase," she said. "It is deeply concerning, and this is a lot of people."

The survey asked participants if they had intimate or sexual content of themselves shared online without their permission, or if they had received a threat to do so.

Source: 1 NEWS

Instances of this occurring was significantly more likely to impact people under 30. However, the image-based abuse spanned across generations.

Netsafe CEO Martin Cocker said imaged-based sexual abuse should not be underestimated, with some cases the worst Netsafe sees in term of impact.

"We often find that people feel exposed and humiliated to the point where it’s affecting their everyday lives," he said.

Men and women were equal in reported instances. However, there was generally different reasons behind the abuse.

“Typical image-based sexual abuse reports from women tend to involve an ex-partner trying to maintain control, blackmail them back into a relationship or as retaliation for leaving the relationship," Mr Cocker said.

"Sometimes these cases are part of a wider pattern of family violence."

Men, on the other hand, were more likely to report the reason behind the abuse was either a joke or extortion, "where they’ve engaged in sexual activity online with strangers, which has been recorded, and they are then being extorted for money".

Ms Logie said there is a "catch up" needed with the use of the internet as a tool for spreading images. 

"This isn't new," she said. "Blackmail has always existed, and family violence we know we have a real problem in this country. We need to get to the underlying issues."

"Our law is very clear. It is OK to share images of yourself with your partner or other people by choice, but it's not OK to pass that image on without the consent of the people involved in that image.

"This is a serious crime and needs to be treated as such."

Reasons that dissuaded people seeking help or reporting abuse could be seen in a 35 per cent chunk of New Zealanders who were unfamiliar with the law around imaged-based sexual abuse, coupled with victim blaming attitudes.

"Many victims report that they’ve felt blame directly or that it’s been insinuated in some way," said Netsafe Director of Operations Helen O’Toole.

Ms O’Toole said that attitude was problematic and discouraged victims from seeking help.

Ms Logie said the high percentage of people not aware was a reflection of the Harmful Digital Communication Act being a relatively new law. 

"It's quite often a challenge to keep up with changing dynamics around technology and healthy relationships," she said.

"The crimes as they've been described to us in terms of ex-partners, I don't think it's about not knowing. I think it's purposeful and we need to all take responsibility."

A national strategy aiming to end domestic and sexual violence is expect to include discussion of changes needed to the law around image-based sexual abuse. 

Offenders of image-based sexual abuse can face a fine up to $50,000 or up to two years in jail.

A police spokesperson told 1 NEWS: "Possessing and/or publishing, selling, exporting or importing an intimate recording is an offence."

The research was conducted by Colmar Brunton using 1001 participants 18 years and older. The margin of error was +/-3.1 per cent, at a 95 per cent confidence level.

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    Jan Logie, who is the Government’s domestic and sexual abuse spokesperson said underlying issues need to be addressed. Source: 1 NEWS