Dr Nicola Henry2
2RMIT, Melbourne, Australia,
Digital technologies are increasingly being used as tools of abuse, harassment, and violence. One manifestation of this growing trend is image-based sexual abuse (IBSA), also known as ‘revenge pornography.’ IBSA refers to the non-consensual creation, distribution and/or threats of distribution, of nude or sexual images. Although quantitative studies have begun to investigate the prevalence of IBSA, suggesting that somewhere between 1 and 12 per cent of people have experienced at least one form of IBSA, very few studies have empirically examined the experiences of victim/survivors. Drawing on 50 in-depth interviews with Australian and New Zealand victim/survivors, this paper examines their lived experiences, as well as the impacts of IBSA and the barriers to seeking support. The study found that participants commonly experienced significant emotional and psychological impacts (often as the result of multiple forms of abuse), including anxiety and depression, as well as fears regarding the continued circulation of images and implications of IBSA for their futures. Self-blame was also a common emotional response, as were feelings of helplessness and disappointment, particularly around the lack of consequences for perpetrators. The paper considers the diversity of different acts and impacts of IBSA, the complexity of polyvictimization, as well as the types of prevention and response interventions that are needed to support victims of IBSA.
Dr Nicola Henry is Associate Professor and Vice-Chancellor’s Principal Research Fellow in the Social and Global Studies Centre at RMIT University. Her research investigates the prevalence, nature and impacts of gendered violence, including the legal and non-legal responses to these harms. Her current research is focused on technology-facilitated sexual violence, and image-based sexual abuse.