MELBOURNE - One in five Australians has admitted to being the subject of online "image abuse", whereby personal photographs - often of an explicit nature - are unknowingly shared online, according the results of a survey released on Monday.
The phenomenon is commonly known as "revenge porn" in Australia and the survey of 4,274 people aged 16 to 49, undertaken by Monash University and RMIT University, showed that 22 percent of men and 23 percent of women had been the victim of "image abuse."
According to the survey, the most common types of abuse were having sexual or nude images taken without consent (20 percent), the distribution of images without consent (11 percent) and threatening to have images shared (9 percent).
The majority of perpetrators were found to be men (54 percent), while 33 percent of perpetrators were female and 13 percent of cases were either "unlisted" or committed by "a group" of people.
Lead investigator, RMIT University"s Dr Nicola Henry, said the research showed that revenge porn was affecting a wider range of people than first thought, adding that authorities were lagging behind in making the practice illegal.
"Image-based abuse has emerged so rapidly as an issue that inevitably our laws and policies are struggling to catch up," Henry said in a statement on Monday.
"This isn"t just about "revenge porn" - images are being used to control, abuse and humiliate people in ways that go well beyond the "relationship gone sour" scenario."
Colleague, Dr Anastasia Powell said governments needed to "rethink (their) approach from a legal perspective", while Monash University"s Dr Asher Flynn said it was also likely that the survey"s findings had underestimated the extent of image-based abuse.
"Our survey only captured those victims who had become aware their images had been distributed, whereas some victims may never discover that their images have been taken and distributed, particularly if they are circulated on sites located on the dark web," Flynn said.