30 Nov 2021

Sharing intimate content without permission has 'serious consequences' - Netsafe

8:36 am on 30 November 2021

A young woman whose nude photos were posted on a porn site without her permission fears the perpetrators of online sexual abuse don't realise their actions could have consequences.

As sharing intimate images and videos becomes a normal part of consensual relationships, there are growing concerns about the harm that's being done when someone breaches their partner's trust.

lifestyle young man using a mobile phone with texting message on app smartphone, playing social network and shopping online

File photo. Photo: 123rf

During the first lockdown last year, *Kate discovered an intimate photo she'd sent when she was 14 had been published on Pornhub, alongside links to her social media accounts.

The image was taken down within 24 hours after the police got involved, but it was months before the person responsible was tracked down.

"Before this time, I lived in fear, not knowing who had done this to me and thinking they could easily do it by another few clicks of a button," Kate said.

The man who posted Kate's photo online wasn't the person who she had originally sent it to.

As it transpired, photos of Kate and other young women had been shared among classmates and the perpetrator had never deleted them.

Netsafe chief executive Martin Cocker said sharing images without permission is wrong - and has serious consequences.

"If you are in possession of an intimate image of another person, the rules with which that was shared to you apply for all time.

"If you don't adhere to those rules, if you break that consent around that, then you're an offender under New Zealand law."

The man who posted Kate's photo to Pornhub was charged under the Harmful Digital Communications Act and convicted of causing harm by posting a digital communication.

He was sentenced to 18 months' intensive supervision and ordered to pay reparations.

Initially, Kate blamed herself for what had happened.

"When someone does this to you, you think it's your fault.

"You think, 'who have I done something to that hates me this much, what could I have possibly done to bring this on myself?'

"You definitely blame yourself because logically why would this happen, if it wasn't something you'd done?"

RespectEd Aotearoa chief executive Fiona McNamara said the person who sent the images was not to blame.

"Someone sharing something with a trusted partner, they're not doing anything wrong when they do that, the problem is when someone abuses their consent and chooses to share that image or that message or whatever it is further."

Netsafe's research has found almost four in 10 teenagers know someone who has shared nude pictures or videos.

Across the wider population, McNamara said it's difficult to know for certain if it's becoming more common - but it probably is.

"People generally are communicating more and more online, so that means people are conducting intimate relationships online, or that's part of their relationship, even if they also see each other in person.

"Unfortunately through that there's also an increased opportunity, increased instances where abuse can happen."

That was something Kate worried about.

She said young people need to know it's not ok to share intimate images, without consent.

"The message that there are consequences in the real world, even if there doesn't seem to be on the internet, is one that young men need to be told more than young women, as young men are often the ones asking for these photos and sharing them without permission."

It's not a specific offence to post an intimate image or recording online without consent - but Labour MP Louisa Wall has a member's bill before parliament that would change that.

At the moment, to be convicted under the Harmful Digital Communications Act, there must be an intention to cause harm - as happened in Kate's case.

Where to get help:

NZ Police

Victim Support 0800 842 846

Rape Crisis 0800 88 33 00

Rape Prevention Education

Empowerment Trust

HELP Call 24/7 (Auckland): 09 623 1700, (Wellington): be 04 801 6655 - 0

Safe to talk: a 24/7 confidential helpline for survivors, support people and those with harmful sexual behaviour: 0800044334.

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

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