Media Release: Youth sexual assault crisis on the rise - Federal Government must release eSafety’s report on porn and age verification to protect children

eSafety delivered its report on a roadmap for age verification to protect children from online wagering and pornography to the Federal Government in March.

But stakeholders do not know what eSafety has recommended or what action the Government will take, as there has been no response.

Evidence to an inquiry conducted by the Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs raised concern about the serious impacts on the welfare of children and young people associated with pornography exposure.

In its ‘Protecting the Age of Innocence’ inquiry report, the Committee said it was “deeply concerned” about the extent to which young people were exposed to potentially harmful content. It recommended that access to online pornography and wagering be restricted through mandatory proof of age protections.

“While age verification is not a silver bullet, it can create a significant barrier to prevent young people - and particularly young children - from exposure to harmful online content,” the report stated.

On 1 June 2021, the previous Federal Government asked eSafety to develop an implementation roadmap for a mandatory age verification (AV) regime relating to online pornography. eSafety delivered its report to Federal Cabinet in March.

Movement Director Melinda Tankard Reist said the Federal Government must release the report so stakeholders who care about the wellbeing of young people can assess its merits.

“The roadmap must not be watered down by the adult industry which prefers zero regulation,” Tankard Reist said.

“The vested interests of a predatory global industry must not be put before the wellbeing of children and the broader community.

“Every day without Government action, more children are being harmed by porn exposure, exposed to rape and torture, sadism and extreme degradation of women.

“We are seeing a rise of child-on-child sexual abuse, sexual harassment, children making sexual groaning and moaning noises, girls threatened with rape if they don’t send nudes, and other porn-inspired behaviours in schools.

“Children are having their developing sexual templates warped by the toxic education provided by pornography exposure.”

Australia’s National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-2023 acknowledges that “Pornography often depicts physical and verbal aggression towards women, male dominance and female submission, and non-consensual behaviours”, contributing to a view of women as “sex objects, and with acceptance of myths about rape” and victim-blaming attitudes.”

“Viewing pornographic material that showcases violence can have negative impacts on a young person’s development with regard to their wellbeing and relationships and it can influence their attitudes and beliefs about sex, intimacy and consent,” the Plan states.

“The more often young men consume pornography, the more likely they are to enact sexual behaviour that the other person does not want.”

The largest cohort of sexual offenders in this country is young males aged 15-19. These sobering figures will only get worse if the Government doesn’t treat this issue as the public health crisis it is.


Melinda Tankard Reist: [email protected]

May 10, 2023

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