Caught In Your Birthday Suit: Sexting, Harassment And The Law

In recent times, Australian sexting scandals have become a source of mirth in the media. Politicians with unusual uses for red wine and numerous sports stars have provided entertainment with their antics. Unfortunately, for some people, sexting can be a devastating mistake that ruins lives and reputations. Make sure that you understand the legal implications of sexting and take steps to prevent the world from seeing your private parts.

What is sexting?

Sexting involves using electronic means such as the Internet or a phone to share nude photos. It is a crime if the sender or the recipient is under 18. It is also a crime if someone sexts pictures in order to embarrass, blackmail, gain revenge or generally bully you, regardless of your age. Even if you initially sent pictures to someone, once they post those pictures without your consent, it is against the law.

If someone constantly asks you to sext pictures of yourself and you do not wish to do so, this can be considered harassment.  It is also harassment if someone sexts pictures of themselves to you without invitation. You are entitled to protection under the law in these cases.

How can the law help?

Australian governments are currently creating or reviewing laws to deal with this growing problem. Victoria, in particular, is at the forefront in making unwanted sexting illegal. There are criminal and civil options available to deal with sexting offenders.

Criminal case: Sexters could face a range of criminal charges such as disseminating child pornography, committing acts of indecency and stalking.  Offenders can end up serving jail sentences. Even the act of threatening to spread intimate images can result in one year jail terms under Victoria's new laws.

Civil case: If unwanted sexting makes you feel harassed or threatened, you may be entitled to compensation. In a workplace bullying situation where your career is harmed, for example, you should seek legal advice about possible redress. Suing for breach of privacy and defamation are two options under Australian law. Emotional suffering can also be grounds for compensation. For instance, teenage girl who feared that her boyfriend would send pictures to family and friends received compensation for deterioration in her mental health.

What can you do if you become a victim?

Whether you are fourteen or forty, do not stand by helplessly if you are involved in a sexting incident. Here are proactive ways to face the problem:

  • If someone at school sends unwanted sexts or threatens to distribute pictures of you, notify your principal immediately. Should this occur at work, contact your workplace health and safety officer.
  • Report the pictures to the social media websites involved and have them removed.
  • Your mobile phone company can intervene if someone constantly sends unwanted sexts.
  • If the problem persists, seek assistance from your lawyer and the police.

How can you avoid sexting problems?

Whether you are sending or receiving sexts, here are some commonsense ways to avoid breaking the law or having your intimate photos go viral:

  • If you are under 18, do not send or receive sexts. If you are over 18, do not send sexts to anyone under 18.
  • If you receive an unwanted sext, delete it immediately and tell the sender clearly not to send more.
  • If you must send a sext of yourself, make sure that you absolutely trust the receiver. Remember that phones, computers and data can be stolen.
  • Always check that the receiver wants to receive a sext before sending it.
  • Do not harass someone to send you a nude photo of themselves.
  • Never forward an intimate photo of someone without their permission. Even if someone gives consent, it is best not to, as you cannot stop the receiver from sending it to others.
  • Keep your face, tattoos and identifying features out of any photo you sext. Remove any embedded information on the file which would allow it to be traced to you. Use an app which allows you to send messages anonymously. The photo could still be misused, but no one will be able to prove it is you.

Sexting is far from being a harmless pursuit. Take these precautions in order to avoid your sexts being misappropriated. If you do find yourself on the receiving end of sexting harassment, your dignity and privacy are being violated. Do not hesitate to investigate your legal options by contacting a firm like Dwyer Law Group.