Rise in online sexual abuse is horrific, but not “shocking”

Rise in online sexual abuse is horrific, but not “shocking”

This week, the Daily Telegraph published an article titled “‘Mental torture’: Shock rise in revenge porn, online abuse”, which revealed that “Three quarters of Australians had at least one negative experience online in the last year, with more than one in five perpetrators targeting their victims for fun”:

“The results of the survey of 4,783 Australians aged 18 to 65, was released by the eSafety Commission on Tuesday and found that negative online experiences had increased by 30 per cent since 2019.

They included unwanted inappropriate content, such as pornographic or violent material (32 per cent) and personal information being misused, such as a photo being shared without consent (25 per cent).”

As our CEO Rachael Wong told Sky News host Chris Kenny, the rise in revenge porn and online sexual abuse is horrific but it’s not “shocking”. It’s one of the upshots of failing to deal with the proliferation of abusive, violent, degrading, dehumanising pornography in our culture which fuels parallel attitudes.

“It’s not shocking because we still haven’t addressed one of the key issues – pornography.

Across most Australian states and territories now we have laws which criminalise revenge porn. The new online eSafety Act is going be holding social media platforms more accountable, among other things.

But in amongst all that there still isn’t enough focus on addressing the issue of porn, addressing the fact that young people are increasingly being brought up on a diet of hardcore pornography and this is obviously shaping their attitudes. It’s fuelling violence against women and girls, whether that’s actual physical real world violence or online violence.

I think at the very minimum we need to be seeing age verification laws across Australia. I think there could be even further restrictions around pornography, but at the very minimum we need those.”

The Daily Telegraph article did not even mention the possible impact of easy-to-access, increasingly abusive pornography in escalating online abuse.

Of course the pandemic – which has led to people spending more time at home and on their devices – also hasn’t helped.

And while law reform is absolutely necessary, laws can only go so far. In addition to tougher restrictions around pornography, particularly age verification laws to protect young people, it is critical that education around the harms of porn is undertaken in families, schools and our wider culture.

Women’s Forum Australia is an independent think tank that undertakes research, education and public policy advocacy on issues affecting women and girls, with a particular focus on addressing behaviours and practices that are harmful and abusive to them. We are a non-partisan, non-religious, tax-deductible charity. We do not receive any government funding and rely solely on donations to make an impact. Support our work today.

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