Family and friends play a very important role in helping victims of image-based abuse. Support that is unconditional, focuses on the victim’s experience and does not blame them, is the most useful.
Many Australians have experienced image-based abuse. Through research, and in speaking with victims, we know that this kind of abuse can be very damaging.
It is common for people who have experienced image-based abuse to feel a range of emotions like shame, embarrassment, humiliation, anger, fear, anxiety and a sense of helplessness. Beyond the trauma they experience from their intimate image being shared, victims may also have to deal with critical comments and even ongoing harassment from strangers who have viewed their photo, traumatising them further.
Telling friends and family what happened and sharing their feelings may be hard for the victim. But the support of caring people can be invaluable.
Research shows that victims often turn to friends and family first, and that reassurance and support go a long way to helping victims handle the situation. Friends and family who offer unconditional support, focus on the victim’s experience, and do not blame the victim, are the most helpful. Some people hold out-dated attitudes that blame victims of image-based abuse, when the blame should fall squarely on perpetrators. These views are unhelpful and can add stress to an already difficult situation.
You can make a huge difference to any friend or family member who has, or is, experiencing image-based abuse. Just being there for them helps.
Here are some things you can do to reassure and support them:
- Remind them that they have done nothing wrong—the person who shared their image is the one who is to blame. Tell them you are on their side, and are there for them.
- Tell them how upset you are for them and remind them that things will get better with the passage of time.
- Ask how you can help them and what they need from you.
- Listen to the victim, and avoid comparing them to yourself or others.
- Be there when they need to talk.
- Help them do things they enjoy: see a movie together, take them out, or cook them a meal.
- Do not ask why they took or shared the image or video in the first place. It can unintentionally make the person who experienced the abuse feel like they are to blame.
- Refer them to support, ways to take action and legal assistance on this website. These pages include reporting links to social media services and websites. Help them report the content to the site where it was posted to request removal of the content.
- If you or the victim do not know where the images are posted or haven’t been able to get them removed, make a report to the Office and our team will do what we can to assist.
If you notice they are depressed, anxious, have changes in mood, sleep, eating, energy levels or willingness to socialise, tell them you are worried about them. Tell them you want them to get help from a counsellor or psychologist and offer to go with them. You can find a qualified provider on our list of counselling services.
A Quick Guide on how to support a friend of family member who is experiencing image-based abuse is available at the link below.Go to Quick Guides
If your child’s intimate photo or video has been posted online, here are some key steps you can take to help:
- Take a deep breath and remember children and young people are growing up in a world that is quite different to that of most parents. As we increasingly live our lives online, it is becoming more common for teenagers to share images, including intimate images. The best thing you can do at the outset is support and reassure them.
- Make it clear that they will get through this and that you will support them throughout the process.
- Avoid shaming your child. Whether you agree with the original photo being taken or not, your child relies on you to protect them. So, reassure your child you will continue to support and love them. This is critical in helping to protect their mental health.
- Ask your child to think about what they would say if this happened to a close friend, and then help them to apply those same kind, caring words to themselves.
- Work through the practical steps provided on this website to try and have the image removed.
- If you feel your child’s school can help, contact the school to ensure they are looking out for concerning behaviour directed towards your child, such as shaming or bullying.
- Keep your child connected to supportive friends and family. Encourage your child to keep doing activities that make them feel happy.
- Understand that your child feels betrayed and broken hearted. This pain could be made worse by friends and bystanders making comments online and in-person to your child. This pain is very real but reassure them that it will lessen over time—and things will get better!
- This situation can be heart-wrenching for any parent, so if you find this too challenging to handle on your own, consider reaching out. Services such as Parentline , Kids Helpline , and eHeadspace can provide support for you and your child, as can a school counsellor or psychologist.
You will find more options for support and counselling services below.Take me to counselling services