The ACT Greens are calling for ACT schools to be tasked with tackling ‘troubling attitudes’ around intimate image abuse in the territory, saying that those attitudes are not keeping up with legislative change.
ACT Greens spokesperson for women, Caroline Le Couteur, said that although there have been improvements to laws dealing with intimate image abuse in the ACT, the territory has “an enormous way to go” when it comes to tackling the kind of attitudes that lead to that abuse.
She referred to a new report, based on a 2017 survey of more than 17,500 young Australians, which found that young people are confused about the sharing of nude or intimate images, with over a quarter blaming the woman for sending the image instead of blaming her partner or ex-partner for sharing it without her consent.
“Young women, in particular, who share intimate images of themselves with their partner at the time don’t expect it to go further. But what happens is their image is shared with their [partner’s] mates and then shared with their mates and it gets totally out of control,” Ms Le Couteur said.
“Education is the key to telling young people that’s not how they should behave.
“We’ve had a case already in Canberra where somebody suicided over this. It was a few years ago and there was blackmail involved as well.
“It’s a crime that has real consequences and we need to educate our young people about those real consequences and about the danger of sharing things online.”
In August 2017, the ACT Legislative Assembly passed new laws that made it clear that it is a crime to share intimate images of a person without their consent.
“We’ve clearly come a long way in improving the laws around intimate image abuse in the Territory, and the Greens are proud to have led this important discussion in our Assembly,” Ms Le Couteur said.
“That said, we still have an enormous way to go to tackle the kind of attitudes that lead to intimate image abuse.
“This latest report tells us that many young people are still confused about what consent is, and what constitutes controlling behaviours such as non-consensual sharing of intimate images.
“We need to send a clear message that it’s just not okay to send intimate images of a person to others, without their consent. It’s also not okay to share these images with other people, or on social media, without their consent.”
Ms Le Couteur said that more comprehensive community education, specifically targeting young people, is needed to help them clearly understand what consent means, and what respectful relationships look like.
“Programs are already underway in our schools to teach students about respectful relationships and cyber-safety,” Ms Le Couteur said.
“That said, we believe this education should specifically deal with intimate image abuse, as well as defining what consent is, and what it’s not, and how to negotiate it.”