Welcome to Sisters In Law, news.com.au’s weekly column solving all of your legal problems. This week, our resident lawyers and real-life sisters Alison and Jillian Barrett from Maurice Blackburn tackle your legal rights when it comes to revenge porn.
I broke up with my boyfriend earlier this year after a four-year relationship. It wasn’t an amicable break-up — I developed feelings for a man at work and ended the relationship to pursue a new one with him. Now my ex is threatening to post some sexy pictures I sent him while we were together and he was working interstate. My face is visible in most of them and I can’t stress enough how terrified I am about these getting out. How can I make him stop? What are my rights when it comes to revenge porn? — Kayleigh, Australia
This is a terrible threat to breach your trust and privacy which is understandably very distressing for victims such as yourself.
You haven’t said where in Australia you live, but broadly speaking, there are laws making revenge porn a crime in most States and Territories and there are federal laws criminalising it.
Tasmania is the only State/Territory in Australia that still does not have specific legislation criminalising revenge porn. So provided you don’t live in Tasmania, you’ll be protected by legislation that makes it an offence to distribute, or threaten to distribute, an intimate image.
“Distributing” or “threatening to distribute” isn’t just limited to your ex posting images on social media or texting to his friends, it also includes showing the images to his mates at the local pub.
An intimate image includes a still or moving image that shows:
• A person engaged in an intimate sexual activity not normally done in public
• The genital or anal region when it is bare or covered only by underwear
• The bare breast/s of a female, transgender or intersex person (if they identify as female), or
• An image that has been altered to appear to show any of the above.
So if you took a “live” photo or video and sent it to your then-boyfriend, these will still be covered. You’ll still be protected even if he photoshops your face onto an intimate image of someone else.
Some victims worry that because they willing agreed to the photos being taken or may have originally sent the images to the person they are in some way responsible.
Kayleigh is living in fear her ex will post her naked pictures on social media. Picture: iStock.Source:istock
This is not the case, you have legal rights.
Just because you gave him permission to see the image, it does not mean that you agreed to anyone else seeing it.
You’re not alone in being threatened with revenge porn — think about Paris Hilton whose sex tape was made public or Lara Bingle whose shower photo was splashed across the media. If these images and videos were shared now, the person releasing them could be charged.
Often the threats to share an intimate image are made when someone is trying to blackmail you, coerce you into continuing the relationship, or to punish you.
A person can be charged under the “revenge porn” laws if they threaten to release an intimate image, even if they don’t have one.
The laws are not designed to blame or shame the victims and the States and Territories do want people to come forward.
In the six months from the Queensland laws coming into effect earlier this year there have been about 200 charges laid.
You should immediately contact the police and provide them with proof of his threats.
If he does share the photos online then you should take the following steps:
• Collect evidence: such as screenshots, and the url of the website;
• Do a “reverse image search” and see if the photo has been uploaded anywhere else;
• Contact the website/ social media platform to report that the image/video was uploaded without consent and ask them to remove it;
• Make a report to the eSafety Commissioner and the Australia Cyber Security Centre;
• Contact your local police.
The eSafety Commissioner has powers to take action against people and the websites who publish these intimate images and videos. Corporations can be fined up to $525,000 for failing to comply with a formal removal notice and individuals up to $105,000.
Your ex-boyfriend could spend time in prison, with most states locking him up for up to three years, for threatening or actually releasing the images.
Revenge porn perpetrators can face heavy fines and even jail time. Picture: iStockSource:News Regional Media
Some states also have fines if the person is found guilty, however one can question the effectiveness of a fine in deterring people.
If a person is found to be guilty of revenge porn offences, the court can order them to remove, delete or destroy the intimate images or video within a certain time frame. If they fail to do so, they can be found guilty of a further offence, and possibly face a further two years imprisonment.
There are some defences that may be available to your ex-boyfriend (none of which are likely to succeed based on the information you told us) including that it was for a genuine artistic, educational, legal, scientific, medical, or public benefit purpose; and that it was, in the circumstances, reasonable.
In summary, the law in this area is not perfect, it is just part of the solution, and with constant changes in technology it can be slow to change.
We believe social media platforms can do better in being more responsive to complaints and protecting victims.
For specific legal advice you should contact a lawyer in your state.
If you have a legal question you would like Alison and Jillian to answer, please email firstname.lastname@example.org