Petition calls on ACT government to introduce 'revenge porn' laws
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Petition calls on ACT government to introduce 'revenge porn' laws

A petition has been launched calling on the ACT government to introduce laws that specifically prohibit revenge porn.

Revenge porn is the distribution of sexually explicit images without a person's consent to harass or cause distress.

A petition has been launched calling on the ACT government to introduce laws that target revenge porn.

A petition has been launched calling on the ACT government to introduce laws that target revenge porn.Credit:Phil Carrick

Canberra's Domestic Violence Crisis Service chief executive Mirjana Wilson said in some cases female clients had reported being drugged by their partners and forced into degrading sex, which was recorded.

The women were then told if they didn't comply with demands [more degrading sex, dowry, subordination] the images would be posted on Facebook and shown to families.

An online petition has been launched calling on the ACT government to introduce laws that specifically target revenge porn.

An online petition has been launched calling on the ACT government to introduce laws that specifically target revenge porn.

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"We have also heard from women that their partners had threatened to share the intimate images to stop the women from reporting abuse to police or taking out a protection order," Ms Wilson said.

"We are in favour of supporting legislation and laws that provide a clear process for police and the courts to be able to take action and hold people accountable and responsible for harassing and threatening behaviour."

Petitioner Rhys Michie has so far attracted more than 150 signatures.

Mr Michie said existing laws covered blackmail and threatening behaviour, but there were gaps in the ACT that should be addressed.

"The laws that exist presently aren't specifically for revenge porn," he said.

"In the ACT, police can use blackmail laws, they can use stalking provisions if it happens on two occasions; there's also a federal law that makes it an offence to use a carriage service to menace or harass.

"In civil law you can use breach of copyright or breach of privacy.

"That involves the victim paying lawyers and going through the courts to seek compensation because there are no criminal aspects involved."

Mr Michie said revenge porn laws existed in South Australia and Victoria, and were being developed in NSW.

He said targeted laws made it easier for victims and helped achieve cultural change.

"It means the victim doesn't have to pursue it, the state will pursue it through the police," he said.

"Also, you can end up with someone being sent to jail for it, which sends a much stronger message to the community that people in the ACT think this type of behaviour is unacceptable.

"It's not something you can do if you're prepared to pay a $50,000 fine, it's something that if you behave this way you can go to jail for two years."

Mr Michie said anecdotally he was aware of victims in the ACT.

"People often feel really ashamed because they think they are somehow responsible, because they took the photo of themselves in the first place," he said.

"Hopefully this petition raises awareness in the minds of people that something is missing in the law and if the law is changed they have a redress.

"It's a way of empowering people.

"Rather than saying 'don't produce pictures of yourself naked', we should be focusing on the behaviour of people who engage in the non-consensual distribution of these images."

A spokesman for Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay said offenders could be prosecuted under existing laws, but the government would consider recommendations from a national council of Attorneys-General, Justice and Police Ministers.

"It is important to carefully identify the behaviour and for that reason the ACT government does not adopt the label 'revenge porn' for this conduct," the spokesman said.

"The term revenge porn mischaracterises the criminal nature of this act. The word 'revenge' could suggest that the actions of the victim targeted had something to do with the crime.

"Intimate image abuse better captures the seriousness and nature of this conduct."

Michael Gorey is a reporter at The Canberra Times