Fewer than one in four Victorians found guilty of image-based sexual abuse are sentenced to prison, a new report shows.
Victoria’s Sentencing Advisory Council published new data on Tuesday showing the evolution of image-based sexual abuse offences in Victoria for the four years to June 30, 2019.
The five offences refer to the non-consensual creation, sharing or threats to share intimate images or recordings of another person and include revenge porn and upskirting.
Sentences for these offences have more than tripled from 25 in 2014-15 to 91 in 2018-19.
In that time, community correction orders (27 per cent), imprisonment (22) and fines (19) were the most common sentences.
The maximum penalty for threatening to distribute an intimate image in Victoria is one year’s imprisonment, half that of actual distribution.
The council noted overall sentences seem “relatively low” compared to available maximum penalties and the severe harm image-based abuse can cause.
Council chair Arie Freiberg said sentencing outcomes did not appear to reflect the seriousness of this behaviour.
“A criminal-justice response to image-based abuse will not always be appropriate, especially when young people are involved,” Professor Arie Freiberg said in a statement on Tuesday.
“But at the same time, it’s important that the criminal justice system is able to respond appropriately to the most serious cases of this behaviour.”
Since Victoria criminalised actual or threatened distribution of intimate images in 2014, community correction order results have fallen from 52 per cent to 24 per cent – making it the equal most common sentence along with imprisonment during 2018-19.
A strong determinant of eventual sentencing outcomes was whether image-based abuse cases involved family violence.
If they did, those offenders (29 per cent) were almost three times more likely to be slapped with a prison sentence than if they did not (10).
The report found more than half of image-based abuse cases (54 per cent) are linked to family violence, with a quarter of all offenders also guilty of breaching pre-existing family violence intervention orders.
Nine out of 10 offenders were men.
Despite research suggesting almost one in four Australians aged 16 to 49 have experienced some form of image-based sexual abuse, police only recorded 2055 instances of it in Victoria in the four years to 2018-19.
“As a result, IBSA tends to be reported and prosecuted only where there is a long course of conduct and/or where there are other types of offending,” the report said.
The council said the large gap between known occurrences of this abuse and its reporting to law enforcement indicated people are unaware the conduct is illegal.
“Despite the severe harms this behaviour can cause, many Victorians – including victim/survivors – don’t appear to see image-based abuse as a criminal matter,” Prof Freiberg said.
“Community education is likely to be a useful part of any government response to this growing issue.”