“Since he’s admitted to it, I’d have thought Nathan Broad can be arrested now”: Social media spectatorship and Image-based sexual abuse

Ella Broadbent1
1University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC

Image-based sexual abuse (or IBSA) is a form of technology-facilitated sexual violence which involves the release and distribution of non-consensual sexual imagery to a wider social media audience. The ways in which individuals spectate these crimes holds particular salience for criminologists as the severity of harm to the victim increases as these images circulate online. This thesis seeks to observe how social media users responded to a high-profile incident of IBSA – the image of a topless woman with a premiership medal around her neck circulated by Richmond player Nathan Broad in 2017.

Drawing upon theories of social media ecology, embodied harms and intermedia agenda-setting, I have sought to observe the responses to Nathan Broads naming in the media. Utilizing a convergent parallel research design, a social network analysis was produced which observed the structural features of social media interactions in the context of IBSA. Specifically, it was noted that institutional accounts were central to this network and played a significant role in mediating the flow of information between users.

Following this, an applied thematic analysis of tweets on the incident revealed a significant portion of Twitter users expressed frustration and dissent towards Broad and the penalty for his actions. This sentiment was then adopted by terrestrial news media reporting on these events, demonstrating a personal and institutional acknowledgement of the crime and its consequences. This investigative process is still ongoing, with further conclusions to be drawn on the role of social media use in disseminating and mediating sentiment towards IBSA.


Ella is a student at the University of Melbourne completing her honors year in Criminology. She has a particular interest in Technology-Facilitated sexual violence and is currently producing her first thesis on image-based sexual abuse and social media spectatorship.


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