Article by Amy Clark /
October 31, 2017 /
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AFL premiership player Nathan Broad will spend the first three games of the 2018 season sitting on the bench. Presumably, hopefully, the Richmond Tigers defender will spend it thinking about why it was wrong to circulate a photo of a woman’s breasts, without her permission or knowledge.
But that’s nothing compared to the weeks, months and perhaps even years that young woman will spend paying for that photo.
“I am deeply sorry for the heartache I have caused this young woman and her family. It was never my intention to hurt her or her family,” the 24-year-old read from a pre-prepared statement on Monday alongside Richmond Football Club’s President, Peggy O’Neal.
“I am ashamed, I am embarrassed and I made a very bad drunken decision.”
Reportedly, the woman requested the photo be deleted shortly after it was taken, to which Broad insisted he had. It appears – he now admits – he never did.
He passed it on instead.
Because of that “drunken decision” which saw the image of the woman, topless, wearing Broad’s premiership medal circulate online, this woman – who Broad insists he “cared about”, “liked and respected” – is serving a sentence that began when he decided to press ‘send’ without her permission.
Under both Victorian and federal law, the sharing of personal images without the express consent of the image’s subject constitutes image-based abuse (more commonly known as ‘revenge porn’), an offence that is punishable by up to three years imprisonment. In Broad’s case, the victim has chosen not to pursue criminal charges.
However, according to The University of Melbourne’s image-based abuse expert, Dr Lauren Rosewarne, three years – let alone three weeks – doesn’t come close to comparing to the suffering some victims continue to experience long after cases have been settled.
“The nature of online crimes mean there is no real end to the suffering for a victim. Such victims get re-traumatised and re-victimised with each new audience,” Dr Rosewarne told Mamamia.
“Taking these photos out of the pool is impossible in the world of the internet, so ever having life return to ‘normal’ for the victim is impossible. That reality needed to have been reflected in Broad’s punishment.”
According to a report by criminology and social justice experts from RMIT University and Monash University published by The Conversation, of those who have reported having been a victim of image-based abuse, 80 per cent experienced heightened levels of psychological distress, consistent with a diagnosis of moderate to severe depression and/or anxiety disorder.
It’s for this reason Dr Rosewarne believes the severity of punishment handed down to perpertrators is so important in reinforcing that image-based abuse is a crime.
“The penalty – which is tantamount to a slap on the wrist – conveys the wrong message to society that Broad’s actions weren’t criminal. Equally, it sends the message to the victim that her pain and suffering is only equal to not being able to play a ballgame for a few weeks. It is disappointing that matters such as this one will be handled ‘in-house’ with the pitiful penalty of a game-suspension. This case belongs in a courtroom.”
Cyber bullying expert, Susan McLean from Cyber Safety Solutions also told Mamamia she believes the woman’s decision not to pursue charges is irrelevant in this situation.
“This is criminal behaviour, it’s not a head high tackle, it’s not an indiscretion on the football field, it’s a criminal offence, the fact he’s not being charged is irrelevant, he still committed a crime and should be treated far more seriously than this,” she said.
“If he was truly remorseful for what he had done, he would have been on this the day the story broke. Not four weeks after… That’s not remorse, that’s ‘Oh dear, I’ve been caught out’.”
From her experience currently working with a number of AFL clubs – excluding Richmond – on cyber bullying and online safety, McLean explained more needs to be done from both organisational and club levels to prevent this kind of behaviour in the future.
“They need a comprehensive education program… conducted by experts not by media people. There need to be sanctions.”
Given her response was the one aspect the woman could control, the woman’s decision not to pursue criminal charges is understandable.
“Her motivation for approaching police was for assistance in getting the image deleted from wherever it had been uploaded, rather than pursuing a criminal investigation into the player’s conduct,” a statement made through her legal representatives Laurence Blackburn Lawyers on Monday said.
“The latter was never her intention… Her main focus has been protecting her privacy, welfare and dignity as she tries to come to terms with what has happened.
“The unauthorised distribution of her photograph and the subsequent attention it has received has had a devastating impact on the young woman’s wellbeing. She is desperate to maintain her anonymity as she tries to get on with her life as best she can.”
The woman at the centre of this debacle has been suffering since the moment a deeply private image of her body was opened for public consumption; since the moment she suffered unnecessary embarrassment and shame at the reckless hands of an athlete with perhaps too much male bravado and too little respect for the woman he claims he “cared” about.
This is just her time already served.
But what about her punishment to come?
Does Nathan Broad’s three weeks still sound adequate? No. It’s not even close.