ANU Graduate Launches Petition Against Revenge Porn

A petition calling on the ACT Legislative Assembly to consider criminalising the distribution of revenge porn has been launched by an ANU graduate student.

The online petition, which needs 500 signatures for it to be considered by a standing committee of the Assembly, highlights the lack of specific criminal offences in the ACT for the non-consensual disclosure of sexual imagery.

Rhy Michie, who launched the petition on Friday with the backing of Greens MLA Caroline Le Couteur, says there is ‘nothing to protect you against revenge porn’ in the ACT while the ‘sexting laws are underdeveloped.’

‘The law hasn’t kept up with changes in technology. The laws we make today only reflect technology as we understand it now. Eventually you have to go back and amend them,’ he said.

Michie, who has lobbied other state governments on the issue and who wrote a master’s thesis on the Victorian State Parliament’s enquiry into sexting while studying at the University of Sydney, believes it should be made an offence to make sexual imagery observable without consent.

‘The kind of legislation that I’m lobbying for in the ACT, is that we should only focus on sexual documents.’

Michie believes that criminalising the act of making a sexual document observable without consent would encompass present and future recording and distribution technologies.

Last year a website where users posted sexual images of people without their consent re-emerged after it was shut down by police. Users posted and ‘rated’ intimate images of schoolgirls and young women at universities around Australia.

That case highlighted the difficulty of keeping track of online websites and the problems law enforcement face when websites are hosted overseas.

In the ACT there is currently only a legal mechanism against people who transmit so-called revenge porn.

Changing the wording to include ‘observable’ would criminalise acts such as showing revenge porn to another person on a phone or printing images out and leaving them for others to find, Michie said.

There are laws in Victoria and South Australia that criminalise the distribution of revenge porn, but Michie believes it would be possible to improve these in the ACT.

‘Victoria took a narrow approach,’ he said. ‘One of the laws they created prohibits the non-consensual distribution of a sexual image or video.

‘It’s quite good, but I think we could make improvements,’ Michie told Woroni.

Australian research has shown that 59 per cent of respondents aged 19 and older had reported having sent a sexual image of themselves, while recent British research shows that 24 per cent of respondents aged 19 and older had made sexual imagery observable without the person’s consent in some way, whether online or in person.

Michie said that, instead of telling people not to send sexual images of themselves, which has not worked, we should ‘involve people in the governing of themselves, in having these conversations.’

‘We’re more likely to win hearts and minds and get people to think, maybe this [revenge porn] is something that we don’t really want,’ he said.

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