THE REAL DEAL
When Nicole*, 15, was asked to send a nude photo of herself to her boyfriend, she wasn’t sure she should, but after he wouldn’t stop harassing her, she gave in and sent a pic.
After all, she loved him and he said he loved her, so what could be wrong with giving him what he wanted?
As it turned out, there was plenty wrong. As soon as he had the photo, Nicole’s boyfriend changed for the worse and threatened to forward the photo to everyone she knew.
Alicia*, 16, found herself in a similar situation when a guy friend pressured her into sending a nude photo of herself online. “He started saying how beautiful I was and how he’d always thought I had an amazing body. At first I was flattered, but then he wouldn’t stop.”
Eventually gave in and sent him one. “Big mistake,” she says. “He went from calling me ‘beautiful’ to ‘slut’ and ‘whore’. He said if I didn’t send him more pictures he would show the school just how slutty I was… I was terrified.”
Sadly, Alicia and Nicole are not alone. A recent GF survey found that one in four readers have sent a sext – a scary stat, considering the risks involved.
🚩 PRESSURE POINT🚩
The major common denominator in Nicole’s and Alicia’s – and many other girls’ – stories is peer pressure.
Despite being wary and not really willing to do it, they gave in to end the harassment they were experiencing. Sadly, sending a sext in these instances all too often exchanges one form of harassment for another.
Cassandra, a counsellor for the Kids Helpline, warns that even if it’s someone you trust, there’s no guarantee of what will happen to that photo once you’ve sent it. “People lose their phone, or it gets stolen, their Facebook account gets hacked… The image isn’t necessarily safe,” she warns.
Australian Federal Police youth advisor Jack Jones agrees that there’s no safe way to sext. “Even if you think you’re happy to send or receive a message from someone, once you’ve sent it you’ve lost control of it. Anyone could come across the images – even your future employer, your mum or your dad!” Then there’s the risk that you break up with someone and it turns sour, or the guy (or girl) could turn out to be an a**hole and send the photo around.
If you do find yourself being pressured to send a sext, remember that this person is not someone who respects you if they won’t take no for an answer – and they’re definitely not somebody you should trust with such a personal photo of yourself. And we haven’t even gotten into the very serious legal consequences you could face if you’re involved in all this…
🚩 SEXTING AND THE LAW🚩
If you’re under 18, sexting is illegal. Believe it or not, even taking a nude photo of yourself and keeping it on your camera or phone is illegal. Really.
“Someone under the age of 18 cannot legally consent to taking a [nude] picture, even if it is of themselves,” says Jack.
“Young people may be committing a crime when taking, receiving or forwarding sexual images of themselves or friends who are minors. This applies even if all participants are willing. These acts can represent the production or distribution of child pornography material, and those participating can be charged with child pornography offences… [which] have a maximum penalty of 15 years’ imprisonment.”
And that’s not just a threat – eight Australians between the ages of 10 and 17 have been charged with child pornography offences since 2008. Just something to keep in mind the next time you’re asked (or want to ask someone) to send a sext.
Luckily, the ends to Nicole and Alicia’s stories aren’t quite so drastic. Nicole turned to her year co-ordinator for help, who got her parents involved, and her dad contacted the guy’s parents to ensure the photo of her was deleted.
Alicia similarly told her parents about her situation. “They contacted the guy’s parents and informed them of their son’s activities. It turns out he’d tried similar things with other girls. He apologised to me, but we stopped being friends,” she explains. “I hate sexting – it came so close to ruining my life. It’s never OK to send topless pictures of yourself. If it doesn’t feel right to you, don’t do it.”
WHAT TO DO:
IF YOU ARE ASKED TO SEND A SEXT...
- Say no.
- Talk to a friend about the situation.
- If the person asking starts to harass you, block them and tell a trusted adult what's going on, or get in touch with the Kids Helpline. (1800 55 1800 or kidshelpline.com.au).
- Whatever you do, don't send the sext.
Remember the social and legal consequences and remind yourself that it's just not worth it. "Don't assume anything you send or post is going to remain private, because it may not. There's no changing your mind once it's out there," advices Jack.
IF YOU'VE SENT A SEXT...
- Tell a trusted adult. You may feel embarassed or worried you'll get in more trouble, but it's more important to get help. "It can be really hard to handle the consequences of sexting if you're dealing with it on your own," says Cassandra. "People like teachers or parents can help you take steps to reduce the harm that has been caused, because it can get out of control pretty quickly if you don't do anything about it."
- If you feel like you don't have anyone you can talk to, call the Kids Helpline or get online support at kidshelpline.com.au.
IF YOU ARE SENT A SEXT...
- Delete the image.
- Don't forward it.
- Tell a trusted adult.