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Sexting 101 Part 2: Getting Help & the Law

In our last post, we talked about the benefits, risks of sexting as well as the need to reflect on your relationship in terms of trust and consent.  In this post, we are looking at some of the legal issues around sexting.

Is it legal or child porn?

As mentioned above sexting can come with some scary consequences. The purpose of this section is not to scare you into never sexting, instead it’s about being fully informed. Here are some things to consider:

How old is the person I’m sexting?

In Canada there are age of consent laws that determine what age gaps are ok and not ok.

In Canada the age of consent is 16, this means that you are legally able to consent to sexual activity with anyone of any age.

There is also a close in age rule. For teens 12 and 13 they are able to consent to sexual activity with someone no more than two years older than them. For teens 14 and 15 they are able to consent to sexual activity with someone no more than 5 years older than them.

Bill C-13 has recently been introduced in Canada. It is called The Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act and applies to sexting if people are under the age of 18. There are two considerations based on this law:

    • It’s illegal to send sexual photos and videos of anyone under 18
    • This includes yourself if you are under 18
    • It’s illegal to store these images on a computer, hard drive or cloud of any kind
    • It’s illegal to share this content- this includes showing it to people around you as well as sharing it electronically
    • This law is kind of confusing as it seems to conflict with the age of consent laws and close in age rule. The general rule of thumb is the following:

The police generally won’t get involved if:

      • You created a sext because you wanted to, not because you were blackmailed or threatened
      • The image or video is free from abuse or violence
      • You sent the picture or video to someone close to your age
      • It stayed private between the two of you

When to seek help

  • If someone a lot older than you is sending you sexual messages, even if you’ve sent some to them in the past
  • If someone sends you a picture of someone else, you don’t know for sure if they are comfortable having that image shared. It’s better to be on the safe side then further risk having a private photo shared
  • If someone sends you a photo or video that shows sexual or physical abuse (this includes someone in the video being unconscious)
  • If someone is sharing your photo to others

What to do if someone is sharing your photo without your consent

Hopefully your photos, messages and videos stay private. If not there are a few options:

  • Contact the police
  • Contact Social Media Channels
    If your photos are being spread on social media contact the social media company directly. You can report the images directly to the company. Check Cyber Civil Rights Initiative's online removal guide for instructions.
  • Call a helpline - Kids Help Phone or Victim Services in your area
  • If you are overwhelmed you can get a take down service to help, this is an expensive option though.
    If you decide to go this route wait until investigators have gathered all of the information for the case.
    We haven’t tested it but DMCA Defender is one option recommended by the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative.
  • Also check out these resources:

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