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Revenge Porn and Domestic Violence


Social media has become an everyday occurrence for most Australians.  However social media is increasingly appearing as the means with which domestic violence or other harassment has been perpetrated.

Domestic violence is defined in the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012 as being behaviour towards another person that:

  1. is physically or sexually abusive;
  2. is economically abusive;
  3. is coercive;
  4. in any other way controls or dominates the second person and causes the second person to fear for the second person’s safety or wellbeing or that of someone else.

This can include electronic surveillance (such as using smart-phones to record someone’s movements) or posting images or comments on social media websites about that person.

One night, Brisbane Mum, Robyn Night logged into Facebook as she often did.  However, this time, there was a message from a friend that Robyn’s image had appeared on a pornographic website. 

The image was Robyn’s head photo-shopped onto a pornographic model’s body.  In one post, Robyn had become a victim of revenge porn. 

Revenge porn is the sharing or posting of private, sexual materials, either photos or videos, of another person without their consent and with the purpose of causing embarrassment or distress.

What followed was 4 years of hell for Robyn and her family.  Someone Robyn knew had taken her image; doctored it and uploaded it onto various porn sites along with her name and address.  Her tormenter also posed as Robyn on these websites, inviting men to her house and telling them “just come in, [she] loves to be raped.”

One by one, men would knock on Robyn’s door.  Most she says, were embarrassed once they realised she wasn’t the Robyn they had met online.  After four years, Robyn’s alleged tormenter was arrested and is presently on trial.

However, Robyn’s case is just one example of revenge porn.  Revenge porn is also often used as a tool by abusers to keep their victims from either leaving them, or reporting them to the police.  Many times, the explicit images used in revenge porn have been taken without that person’s consent. 

Victoria is currently the only state in Australia to criminalise revenge porn.  Other states (including Queensland) rely on existing privacy or domestic violence legislation that is either out-dated or inadequate to deal with the problem revenge porn poses.

Sadly this is an example where advances in technology are outstripping law-makers capacity to deal with them.

However, revenge porn has become so commonplace that there is now a push for Australia-wide legal reform to make it illegal to post images of someone without their consent and to provide harsher penalties for those that do.  The Queensland Government has also committed to reviewing its existing laws in response to this issue.

While stronger laws are clearly needed to address this issue, no punishment will ever fully erase the fear, shame, embarrassment and horror of revenge porn victims.


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