“Sexting” is distribution of sexually explicit messages and/or photographs between cell phones. With a growing reliance of smartphones and messaging apps like “Snapchat”, we are seeing a steady increase in “sexting” and other cyber sex crimes. The law currently views minors as being unable to give consent to sexting, even if they do meet the legal age for sexual consent. Sexting may be a form of sexual abuse, harassment or bullying, and victims may experience anxiety, depression, emotional distress, humiliation, and other psychological consequences. With social media, photos and screenshots can spread like wildfire. A photo meant to be shared with one person, can quickly be shared with an entire school or an even wider audience. Numerous teens have committed suicide after nude photos they have shared have been distributed. Sexting, Shame, and Suicide was covered at length in a 2013 article on RollingStone.com.
In the United States, strict child-pornography laws apply to sexting involving minors. When child pornography laws were put into place decades ago, “sexting” didn’t exist, and now many people have argued that the laws are too strict. In certain instances, teenagers who have texted photographs of themselves or their friends have been charged with distribution of child pornography, while teens that have received images have been charged with possession of child pornography. Some states, including Texas, have passed laws that reduce penalties for juvenile offenders of texting. For example, Texas’ Senate Bill 407 was passed which required minors that intentionally and knowingly promote or possess text messages involving child pornography be prosecuted for misdemeanor offenses rather than felonies.
In one case, a 14-year-old Wisconsin boy had to spend a year in juvenile detention after he coerced underage girls to send sexually explicit photos of themselves, which he then used as blackmail to get them to send additional photos. In another case, Phillip Alpert of Florida, who had just turned 18, sent a semi-nude image of his 16-year-old girlfriend to her contact list. After her parents reported his actions to police, he faced 72 charges including possession and distribution of child pornography. He was kicked out of school, placed on rotation for three years, and required to register as a sex offender until he’s 43.
Helping Victims of Sexting
Estey Bomberger attorneys are committed to helping victims of sexting and sexual abuse. If your child has been a victim of sexting or cyber bullying in a school setting, contact us today for a free consultation.