The West

An explosion in the use of technology and social networking sites among young people is creating more opportunities for sexual violence, according to a study released today.

Researchers from the Australian Institute of Family Studies found emerging technologies facilitated sexually violent acts by providing offenders with more ways of making contact with victims.

Tania Towers, who manages the Sexual Assault Resource Centre at the King Edward Memorial Hospital in Subiaco, said an increasing number of victims are reporting that technology is being used as a strategy to initiate sexual violence.

"It's definitely resulting in more people who are coming to us reporting that technology was a tool used to engage with them inappropriately and groom them," Ms Towers said.

AIFS researcher Nicole Bluett-Boyd said they focused their study on the 12 to 26 age-group because of young people's prolific use of technology.

Ms Bluett-Boyd said phones and social networking sites in particular are facilitating sexual violence before, during and after offences.

She said sexual violence ranges from posting naked pictures of a person on Facebook without their consent to sexual assault.

"Before a sexually violent act, social networking can provide a false sense of connection between offender and victim, for instance 'friending' someone who might not be presenting an accurate identity."

The researchers found during acts of violence, technology was involved in the recording of sexual assaults and threats to distribute images without consent.

After an offence, Ms Bluett-Boyd said offenders threatened to post naked pictures of victims if they did not perform sexual acts.

The findings echo the Australian Defence Force scandal in April 2011, when footage of cadets engaging in a sexual act was streamed via Skype without the knowledge of the female cadet.

Ms Towers said although young people were a high risk group, the phenomenon was affecting all ages across a diverse range of social groups.

She encouraged victims to attend SARC, a confidential crisis and therapy service for people who have experienced sexual violence.

SARC can be contacted on 9340 1828 or 1800 199 888.

The West Australian

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