Revenge porn and online image-based sexual abuse has impacted around 151,000 adults in New Zealand, new research has found.

The research is the first of its kind in New Zealand and online safety organisation Netsafe says young adults aren't the only adult generation impacted.

Those aged under 30 were more likely to be affected but the issue has been found to span throughout all ages, even with those aged 70 years and older.

Netsafe chief executive Martin Cocker said the impact image based sexual abuse can cause on people should not be swept under the rug.

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"Image-based sexual abuse cases are some of the worst that our helpline sees in terms of the harmful impact that the abuse can have on a person," he said.

"The overall percentage of people affected may seem small, but the research indicates that younger people are disproportionately affected in much higher numbers than the rest of the population."

Women were found to be more likely to report the abuse they received as revenge porn - to threaten or intimidate - or for the other person to increase their social standing.

Women were also more likely to report the abuse came from, or person who shared the content was an ex-partner.

Elsewhere, men were found more likely to report reasons behind the abuse as a joke or for extortion.

Men were also more likely to report intimate content being shared by a stranger or someone they know but not an ex-partner.

Cocker said typically, women are targeted by an ex-partner trying to maintain control or blackmail them for leaving the relationship.

"Sometimes these cases are part of a wider pattern of family violence," he said.

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"Reports from men tend to be about sextortion, where they've engaged in sexual activity online with strangers which has been recorded and they are then being extorted for money."

The research also found 35 per cent of New Zealanders are unfamiliar with the laws around image-based sexual abuse.

Under the Harmful Digital Communications Act, image-based sexual abuse can be an offence regardless of any previous consent from the person.

Penalties for breaching the offence can see a fine of up to $50,000 or up to two years in jail for an individual, and up to $200,000 for a body corporate.

Colmar Brunton conducted the survey where 1001 participants aged 18 years and older from a nationally representative sample.

Netsafe: What to do if you're affected by image-based sexual abuse

1.

Screenshot the content if possible and make a record of the URL of the content.

2. Report the content to the platform that it's on to get it removed.

3. Report the profile/account of the person who shared the content to the platform.

4. Contact the Police if you believe a crime has been committed.

5. Contact Netsafe if you need more information about your options under the Harmful Digital Communications Act, or if you need assistance with getting the content removed.