Sexting

Sexting is sending or receiving sexually explicit or sexually suggestive images, messages or video over mobile phones or the internet. Sexts can be directly uploaded or shared using photo, video or message sharing and streaming apps.

Woman on mobile phoneWhile sharing sexy images, texts and videos can be part of a healthy intimate relationship between consensual adults, sexting comes with some risks.

The risks

Sharing sexting content is an action built on trust, but you are at risk when this trust is broken. Even with consensual sexting between adults, problems arise when trust is broken and the image is shared or used to harm you, or when it is accidentally released.

What should you consider before sharing sexting images, video or text?

  • Digital photos and videos can be digitally altered but they never deteriorate.
  • Anyone can capture and save a screen image. Ways of doing this include:
    • using the screen capture functions on devices, such as holding both the home and on/off button on a mobile phone at the same time
    • using another device to take a photo of the image or to record the video content
    • downloading a third-party product to capture or save the content.
  • Friends and partners or ex-partners can share your images and videos beyond your level of trust. They may forward the images to their friends, post them online, or they could use screen capture to put copies of the images on their devices and show them to others.
  • Your content could be shared on the internet, with most of the naked or sexy images and videos posted to pornography sites.
  • Accidents can happen: use separate and safe digital storage for any sexting content because your family, children, community or work colleagues could accidentally gain access to your images.
  • A former partner may use the content to blackmail or shame you. This is a form of abuse – the media refers to it as image-based abuse. Read more.
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Safer sexting tips

For peace of mind consider the following questions before sexting:

  • What could happen to the image or video? Once you press send you no longer have control. Even using an app that automatically deletes images after a set time-limit won’t prevent screen shots or photos of the image being taken and shared.
  • Who could see the image or accidently gain access to it?
  • How much do you trust the other person? Are they likely to take a screen shot or show others?
  • Will you be comfortable talking face-to-face to the person you send it to, after they have seen the sext?

Remember, what goes online, stays online.

What to do if your sext has been shared

If your image or video is shared with others without your consent, this is image-based abuse.

Image-based abuse (IBA) occurs when intimate, nude or sexual images are distributed without the consent of those pictured. This includes real, altered (eg Photoshopped) and drawn pictures and videos.

While most image-based abuse is about the sharing of images without consent, it can also include the threat of an image being shared.

What can you do?

Visit the Office's Image-based abuse portal.

The image-based abuse portal has been created to support all Australians who have experienced image-based abuse, by providing reporting options including reporting to the eSafety Commissioner, support and resources for victims, their family and friends, and bystanders.

If you feel you are in immediate danger because of the way the images are being used, contact your local police or ring Triple Zero (000).

Remember, you haven’t done anything wrong – it’s the person who is sharing without your consent who is doing the wrong thing. If you need support, talk to a trusted friend or contact your GP to access counselling. You can also call Lifeline (13 11 14) for a confidential and anonymous chat at any time of day or night. The portal also provides information about other support services.

What to do if you receive unwanted sexting

If someone is sending you explicit images, text or video without your consent, you can block them or report them to the service or website they are using.

Send a very clear message back to the person, telling them you would like them to stop. Don’t respond in any other way, but keep the evidence by taking screen shots, saving videos and photos, or even filming them, with another device.

If they continue, or if they are doing it to harass you, contact the police for advice.

If you feel you are in immediate danger because of the way the images are being used, contact your local police or ring Triple Zero (000).

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