sexting sending nudes image based abuse

Sexting, Sending Nudes and Image Based Abuse

What advice can we give for our kids to stop them sending nudes? Or if it’s too late and an image gets out, how do they deal with the fallout?  What about if they get sent a nude they didn’t ask for? What if someone unwittingly took a photo or video of them and shared it without their knowledge?

What is sending nudes?

Well, basically any time we send a sexually explicit photo or video via an electronic device, be that texting, messaging, social media, gaming or email, we are participating in “sexting” or the sending of nudes. Image based abuse and sextortion can in some cases be the byproduct of sending or sharing such images.

What are some of the words or acronyms used to ask for sexually explicit photos?

  • NUDES, NOODS, NEWDS: sexually explicit pictures
  • GNOC: Get Naked On Cam
  • SUGARPIC: suggestive or erotic photo
  • IPN: I’m Posting Naked
  • WTTP: Want To Trade Pictures
  • S2R: Send To Receive
  • NIFOC: Nude In Front Of Computer
  • SMN: Send Me Nudes
  • D2SN: Down To Send Nudes

Sending nude photos consensually

Sending nude photos can occur between two people that may or not be in a relationship or simply as a way of flirting. Sometimes this happens with little fallout and the photos are kept relatively privately on each others devices.

Sending nude photos without consent

Sometimes however, these photos may be shared with a mate, or uploaded to a group chat, or added to a sexually explicit website.  Whilst they may have been initially been sent with consent, the sharing with others without consent now renders these images the subject of image based abuse. This is also the case when photos are taken without someones knowledge and shared online. A photo taken up someones skirt or the videoing in a change room can also be shared online and cause great embarrassment and devastation. And as I witnessed in a school recently, a friend, taking a video of another friend getting changed at a sleepover for a “laugh”. This video was “accidentally” airdropped to many other friends and peers at school in amongst a group of photos from the evening,  resulting in some very distressing fallout.

Receiving nude photos without asking

There are plenty of instances where young people get sent nudes pictures that they don’t ask for. This can happen by intentionally being sent these by people who are their contacts, friends, or followers. It can also be random sending by unknown accounts. Or it can also happen when airdrop is turned on and people take advantage of the ease of dropping nudes onto your screen when standing in close proximity.

Teaching Consent

When we are talking about sending nude or sexually explicit images or video, the most important thing we are needing to teach is consent. Because whilst it can be an offence to to have sexually explicit images on our devices, the consequences are certainly amped up when images are sent and shared without consent. Even threatening to share a sexually explicit image of someone can come with a jail term. Any time we are sending or sharing or threatening to send or share sexually explicit images without consent,  it comes under the banner of image based abuse. This must be reported either to police or to the appropriate organisations in your country. In Australia we have the Office of the eSafety Commission that has a specific reporting tool for any image based abuse. They also have a reporting tool for the removal of any sexually explicit image of a person under the age of 18.

Whilst the technology has certainly meant that this is something we are dealing with today that we didn’t have to in years gone by, there are some real lessons about being a decent human that really need to be at the forefront. This is not just an issue of technology and living in a digital world. It is lessons about consent, gender equity, respect, trust and empathy that must be at the forefront of any discussion about sending sexually explicit images.

Safely sending nudes?

Whilst this is often seen as a contentious way to teach young people, it should be noted that sending nude photos can be done in safer ways. For example, by not showing your face in an image you reduce the liklihood of an image being linked to the person should it be leaked. This is obviously a harm minimisation approach and one that may well serve a generation better, especially when we know many are simply not listening to the “don’t send” pleas from parents and schools. It is also interesting to speak with some young people, who are still exploring their sexuality online and via online interactions with others because they actually don’t feel ready for the physical intimacy of sex. There is also the reduced liklihood of unwanted pregnancy and STD when engaging in online encounters! Of course this is not going to sit well for everyone, but I think it is an important aspect to explore when we know there are many people engaging in these behaviours and doing so in risky and dangerous ways. It may be time we changed the rhetoric to support and guide young people in best practises to explore their sexuality safely.

Laws around sending, sharing and receiving sexually explicit images

It is important to note that different states and different countries still have different laws when it comes to the sending and sharing of sexually explicit images. In Victoria for example, it is still against the law to have nude pictures on your device, but if the ages of the sender and receiver are similar and they were sent with consent, they will no longer find themselves subject to paedophile laws or make their way on to the sex offenders register as is still the case in some States. Checking individual laws pertaining to your area is the best way to educate young people on their laws and their rights.

It’s not the end of their world

Granted this is humiliating and embarrassing and can have devastating consequences for a young person when a sexually explicit photo of themselves finds its way online. With all the insecurities and challenges of being an adolescent today, one doesn’t need to throw such humiliation in front of a whole cohort into the mix. We may well know that prevention is better than the cure. We may also want to be teaching harm minimisation and best practises. But we also want to remind young people, that should this happen to them, it does not have to be the end of their world, despite it possibly feeling that way at the time. This will be forgotten. Someone else will soon take over the spotlight. We can get that picture taken down. We want them to know they have support and guidance rather than disdain and further alienation.

Here are a few steps to take to know what to do in any given situation.

What should you do if you are sent a sexually explicit image without consent?

  • delete the photo
  • block the person if you don’t know them
  • ask that person to refrain from sending you those photos if you do know them
  • if they continue, report that person to the platform, game or social media they are sending the images from
  • if they still persist, in Australia, go to esafety.gov.au and report, or go to the police or similar organisation in your country.

What should you do if a sexually explicit image of yourself is sent online?

  • Seek out the support of another trusted person
  • Ask the person who shared the image to take it down
  • if they don’t, report that person and the image to the platform, social media or game and ask them to remove it via the reporting tools in the settings
  • In Australia, head to esafety.gov.au and report to them the image you would like taken down if the social network, game or platform has not responded within 48 hours. The eSafety Commission can assist in the removal of the images and in some cases take action against the person who shared without consent. Other areas, go to similar organisations or the police.

What should you do if someone threatens to share photos to your contacts?

  • If someone asks for further pictures or even money in return for not sharing any images of you with your contacts, DO NOT ENGAGE. Report that person and follow up with the eSafety Commission or the police if they continue to make threats.

It is a complex and tricky byproduct of this uber connected world. It is a reminder of the magnified and public nature of young peoples existence today. Let’s keep the conversation going with our young people. Focus not only on their rights to privacy and control of their online images, but lets also focus on teaching consent, empathy, trust and respect as being the very building blocks to safe, healthy and positive online experiences.

The series The Hunting on SBS Australia deals with some of these issues and may be a good conversation starter for your to have with your kids. I have also written previously on the lessons we can learn from The Hunting. 

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