New reports on image based abuse, pornography and online abuse

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A number of reports have been published on research into image based sexual abuse, pornography and online abuse and harassment in New Zealand.

Report on image based sexual abuse 

Netsafe has recently published Image-based sexual abuse: A snapshot of New Zealand adults’ experiences (January 2019). The report summarises findings from research that asked 1001 adults whether someone had or had threatened to distribute or share intimate or sexual content of them online without their consent. 

Nearly 5% of adults reported being affected by image based sexual abuse (IBSA). People under 30 were more likely to be affected than any other age group. Men and women were equally likely to experience image based sexual abuse online, but the nature of their experiences were different. The researchers found:

"Women were more likely to report that the reason for the abuse they received was revenge, to threaten/intimidate, or for the other person to increase their social standing. Women were also more likely to report that the person who shared the content was an ex-partner.

Men were more likely to report that the most common reasons for the abuse was a joke or for extortion. Men were also more likely to report intimate content being shared by a stranger or someone that they know well but who is not an ex-partner. Netsafe says that these differences are reflected in the cases that their helpline receives."

The report also includes reflection from the Netsafe contact centre. In particular they noted: 

"What we commonly find in cases of relational-IBSA is that supporting agencies and individuals (mainly family and friends) often insinuate or directly blame the victim. They report being told ‘they shouldn’t have shared’, and they should ‘get off social media’ or ‘get off the internet’ entirely. This has an impact. Those targeted often tell us they were left ‘feeling humiliated’ or ‘not heard’, and that those providing support ‘don’t care’ or ‘don’t understand’. This can lead towards a lack of trust in support agencies which results in less engagement and more difficulty ascertaining exactly what has occurred" (page 8 of the report).

Netsafe Director of Operations, Helen O’Toole said:

“This attitude is problematic and discourages people from seeking help. Sending intimate content of yourself is not the issue, it’s when people then on-share that content without consent, and this is supported by legislation.”

Image based sexual abuse can be an offence under the Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015, regardless of whether the intimate content was initially sent consensually or created consensually. 

Netsafe provides advice about image based abuse and sextortion and blackmail on their website. 

Reports about pornography and online sexual content 

Netsafe: Parents' views and experiences

Netsafe published two reports about parents’ views and experiences of their children's exposure to pornography and online sexual content and behaviour.

Children’s exposure to sexually explicit content: Parents’ awareness, attitudes and actions (December 2018) summarises findings from a larger study. Parents were asked about their main concerns regarding online safety for their children. Other questions explored whether parents were aware of their children's exposure to sexually explicit content, how it occurred, how parents responded and their confidence in managing related issues.

Parenting and pornography: Findings from Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom (December 2018) summarises findings of a joint research effort on parental attitudes to pornography. The report provides findings specific to each independent country study.

Office of Film and Literature Classification: Youth exposure to pornography

The Office of Film and Literature Classification published, NZ Youth and Porn: Research findings of a survey on how and why young New Zealanders view online pornography (December 2018). The report summarises findings from a survey of young people in Aotearoa New Zealand about pornography. The research surveyed more than 2000 New Zealanders aged 14-17.

The research found that over two thirds of young people had been exposed to pornography. One in four have seen pornography before the age of 12. Young people reported commonly seeing violence or aggression (69%) and non-consensual activity (72%) in pornography.

Chief Censor David Shanks said:

“This research presents both a challenge and an opportunity. A challenge, because it puts beyond doubt porn is now a fact of life for young New Zealanders. They have told us in their own words about how conflicted they can feel about this. They sometimes see violent, aggressive, misogynistic and coercive behaviour. An opportunity, because many young NZ’ers have told us they think about what they see, are aware that much of it is not for them – and they are up for having some limits.” 

Report on online hate, harassment and abuse

ActionStation has published The People's Report on Online Hate, Harassment and Abuse (2019). The report summarises new research, individual experiences, and expert opinions. ActionStation explored the impact of online hate, harassment and abuse for New Zealanders and how the Harmful Digital Communications Act addresses these issues. ActionStation has also published results from the online survey of people of colour which they commissioned UMR Research to conduct.

The report provides a brief summary for each of the main findings from the research. The summaries include key statistics from ActionStation's commissioned research and key statistics and information from related research in New Zealand and Australia. Their findings include:

  • "Online hate is common but it's worse for marginalised people
  • Social media platforms are exacerbating polarisation
  • Online harassment takes many forms
  • Our laws are not protecting victims of digital domestic violence
  • Cyberbullying is costing the country millions
  • Misinformation spread online can fuel hate and damage democracy
  • YouTube is facilitating the spread of misinformation
  • Facebook and Stuff are allowing racism to flourish on their platforms
  • The Harmful Digital Communications Act is not sufficient
  • Our hate speech laws need updating
  • Solutions could lie in indigenous thinking and values
  • Lani Wendt Young's story"

ActionStation Director and report author Laura O’Connell Rapira said:

“Social media companies have done a great job of connecting whānau and friends around the world. But they also provide a powerful and relatively cheap way for groups and individuals to spread hate, fear, abuse and misinformation across time and space, and without transparency.” 

Laura Rapira O'Connell also said:

“The solution is not just for people to log off or put their phone down. Many of us rely on the internet for connection, employment and information. The solution is government regulation.”

The researchers examined Samoan author Lani Wendt Young's story as a case study. Last year Young shared the lack of police response to her experiences of online threats of rape and violence

For help or more information

NetSafe is the national agency providing support for people experiencing harmful digital communications including online harassment.

Safe to talk Kōrero mai ka ora is the national helpline for people affected by sexual harm.

The Light Project has information and resources to help youth and their whānau to navigate porn in Aotearoa New Zealand.

It's time we talked is part of the 'Reality & Risk: Pornography, young people and sexuality' violence prevention project. The Australia-based project supports young people, parents, schools, government and the community sector to understand and address the influence of pornography. 

Related news 

Netsafe has recently released a Digital Safety Management Plan (DSMP) resource to help guide schools in their planning and decision making around the safe and responsible use of digital technology and online platforms.

Netsafe is accepting applications for their current round of funding for an Online Safety Grant. The deadline to apply is 28 February 2019. Projects that will help to reduce or lessen harm caused by harmful digital communications are eligible for up to $100,000 of funding.

The Government has made data on offences related to the Harmful Digital Communications Act available online. This includes the number of charges and number of people charged and convicted of Harmful Digital Communications Act offences, by outcome, most serious sentence, court, age, gender and ethnicity.

The Australian Government Office of eSafety Commissioner has produced guides in 12 different languages to help women who are experiencing technology-facilitated abuse. The guides cover topics such as keeping your device safe and secure, using social media safely, red flags, helping children and dealing with image-based abuse.

Related reports

NZ teens and digital harm: Statistical insights into experiences, impact, and response, Ministry for Women and Netsafe (June 2018)

Teens and “sexting” in New Zealand: Prevalence and attitudes, Netsafe (December 2017)

Insights Into Digital Harm: The online lives of New Zealand girls and boys, Ministry for Women and Netsafe (December 2017)

Not Just ‘Revenge Pornography’: Australians’ Experiences of Image-Based Abuse, RMIT University (May 2017)

Also see the NZFVC library under the topic Online Harassment.

Related media

Revenge porn: Is the Harmful Digital Communications Act working?, Stuff, 09.03.2019

Facebook and Stuff are allowing racism to flourish on their platforms, The Spinoff, 09.03.2019

Porn is shaping young people's ideas of consent and equality - expert, Stuff, 08.03.2019

Revenge porn is sexual abuse, Newsroom, 25.02.2019

Is ‘sex ed’ failing the #metoo generation?, Press Release: University of Canterbury, Scoop, 22.02.2019

Twitter’s ‘huge fail’ on online abuse, Newsroom, 21.02.2019

The internet is the new public square. And it’s flowing with raw sewage, The Spinoff, 18.02.2019

Women from culturally diverse backgrounds less likely to report online domestic abuse, SBS News, 17.02.2019

Revenge porn may be why men are the main offenders of Harmful Digital Communications Act, Stuff, 15.02.2019

Revenge porn impacts New Zealanders across generations, study finds, One News, 24.01.2019

Solving Facebook's Pacific problem, Radio NZ, 03.09.2018

Parents’ top online concerns, Press Release: Netsafe, Scoop, 10.12.2018

Education needed to reduce impact of pornography on youth, Press Release: Sexual Abuse Prevention Network, Scoop, 05.12.2018

Porn and teens report should serve as a wake-up call, Press Release – Family Planning, Scoop, 05.12.2018

Hate speech against Lani Wendt Young shows much work is needed to fight online abuse, Stuff, 14.10.2018

Facebook investigating online abuse of Samoan author, Radio NZ, 15.08.2018

Warnings law may be too weak on revenge porn, Newshub, 04.05.2018

Sexting: technology is changing what young people share online, Stuff, 14.12.2017

Being online as a girl – new report, Beehive press release, 01.12.2017

'It's about teaching consent and self-respect', Radio NZ, 01.12.2017