Image-based abuse

Image-based abuse is when you share or threaten to share an intimate image of someone else without their consent. 

It is against the law to share an intimate image of someone:

  • who does not consent, or
  • who is under the age of 18.

It is also against the law to threaten to share an intimate image of another person of any age without their permission. You can be charged for making that threat, even if you do not actually have the ability to share the image or the image does not actually exist.

This page has information about the Commonwealth laws about image-based abuse that apply throughout Australia. Some Western Australian laws on image-based abuse use different ages. The Commonwealth laws apply if there is any inconsistency between the two sets of laws.

The ages referred to on this page are based on the Commonwealth laws that apply to the whole of Australia. Some Western Australian laws relating to image sharing use different ages, however the Commonwealth laws override state laws when they are inconsistent.

What is an intimate image?

An intimate image is any picture, photo or video that shows a person in a private situation:

  • naked, partially naked, or in their underwear, or
  • undressing, bathing, toileting, or engaging in sexual activity.

It includes real photos, photo-shopped pictures, videos, stories, drawings and even cartoons. It includes an image in digital, electronic or printed form.

It does not include an image taken in public, such as a photo of someone at the beach in their bathers, or of a model on a catwalk.

What type of sharing is against the law?

It is against the law to share or threaten to share intimate images using a phone, internet or postal service, as well as in person.

Examples include sharing or threatening to share an intimate image by:

  • posting it or sharing a post on social media
  • uploading it to a website
  • photocopying and displaying it in a public place
  • printing and mailing it to someone, or
  • texting or emailing it to someone.

Is it ever okay to share an intimate image of someone else?

It is not against the law to share an intimate image of someone if they:

  • are over the age of 18, and
  • freely and voluntarily give their consent for you to share the image.

Consent is not freely and voluntarily given if it is obtained by force, threat, intimidation, deceit or any fraudulent means.

But if someone gives you consent to share an intimate image on one occasion, that does not automatically mean it is okay to share the image on other occasions or for other people to share the image.

Sometimes it is okay to share an intimate image of someone in circumstances that are reasonable and socially acceptable or in the public interest, such as where there is a genuine scientific, educational, medical, legal or media activity purpose. For example, if a person takes a photo of their young child naked in a bath and shares it with family members, they are unlikely to be charged.

Is it against the law to share an intimate image of yourself?

It is not against the law to share an intimate image of yourself if:

  • you are over the age of 18
  • the person you share the image with is over the age of 16, and
  • you are not menacing, harassing or offending the other person.

If you are under the age of 18, it is against the law to take, keep, send or post an intimate image of yourself (for example, a sexy selfie).

Disclaimer

The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.