Laying blame: Popular understandings of consent and victimhood in cases of image-based sexual abuse among Australian youth

Ms Aleisha Clark1, Dr Asher Flynn1
1Monash University , Monash University, Australia

The proliferation of digital communications technologies within the last decade has led to an expansion of technology-facilitated crime, including image-based sexual abuse. Colloquially known as ‘revenge pornography’, several high-profile cases have prompted heated debated in the media, which has also played out in political and legal spheres. Despite the introduction of evidence-based legislative reform across a number of Australian states, the number of people impacted by non-consensual image-sharing remains high. A recent study found that as many as one in five Australians aged between 16 and 49 have experienced some form of image-based abuse (Henry, Powell & Flynn 2017). Worryingly, young people are one of the groups most likely to experience image-based abuse both as victims and as perpetrators (Henry, Powell & Flynn 2017). However, the emerging literature around image-based abuse pays limited attention to the populist discourse which surrounds non-consensual image-sharing and the ways in which young people perceive victims and perpetrators. My thesis draws on Nils Christie’s (1986) ideal victim theory in combination with Liz Kelly’s (1987) concept of the continuum of sexual violence in exploring young Australians’ attitudes toward image-based sexual abuse. Specifically, my work focuses on the ways in which young people utilise concepts of consent and victimhood in responding to different types of non-consensual image-sharing. In working toward a better understanding of young people’s perceptions of image-based sexual abuse, this research aims to aid in the creation of effective and targeted education programs to empower young people to be ethical digital citizens.


Aleisha Clark is an Honours student with Monash University in 2018. Having achieved majors in both criminology and gender studies through her undergraduate years, Aleisha developed a passion for the intersections of gender, crime and justice. Under supervision from Dr Asher Flynn, Aleisha draws on this passion, working from an explicitly feminist perspective in the area of image-based sexual abuse. In the future, Aleisha hopes to pursue a PhD in the area of gendered violence.


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