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Sexting and Sextortion

Young girl upset and hands tied with phone power cable

Sexting is defined as sending or receiving sexually explicit or suggestive images or videos through the internet or mobile devices. Sharing pictures with a romantic partner is a normal part of a relationship when it is done safely and respectfully, but sexting can cause some major life complications.

Michigan law says that anyone who takes a nude photo of someone under the age of 18 has committed a crime. In fact, producing, distributing, and possessing a nude picture of a minor could be punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Producing means you take the picture, distributing means you send it, and possessing means you have the image on your device. These images could get you in trouble with your parents, your school, and even with law enforcement.

What happens if your partner asks for sexually explicit pictures when you don’t want to? Maybe you’re okay sending them because your partner says they will keep them private. But what happens when and if you break up?  Might those “private” images and videos be passed around or shared?

The bottom line is that you should think twice before sending a nude.

Here are some tips from the Cyberbullying Research Center.

  • Delete any explicit messages sent to you right away – remember just having them can get you in trouble.
  • Don’t share any explicit messages you receive – think about how the person in the image would feel.
  • Ignore or refuse any requests from someone to send them an explicit photo – it’s just not worth it.
  • Block anyone who makes you uncomfortable in how they talk to you and/or what they ask.
  • Don’t support your objectification – giving in to a request devalues your worth and reduces you to an object for someone else’s satisfaction.
  • A relationship doesn’t need nudes to be romantic and fun.
  • If you receive or are shown a sexually explicit image, then you should let them know about the possible consequences.
  • Photos and videos from your teen years will be online forever; protect your digital reputation (see our Online Safety section for more information).
  • Finally, if you shared an intimate picture or video, consider reaching out to a trusted adult who can help you manage this stressful and complicated situation.

Sometimes a sext can end up in the wrong hands where sexting turns to “sextortion”, which is essentially cyber blackmail. Unfortunately, sextortion is a threat that too many teens in Michigan face. It is a form of blackmail in which sexual information or images are used to extort sexual favors or money from the victim. They even threaten to harm the victim’s friends or relatives unless the victim complies with their demands. These threats may come from a former romantic partner or an online stranger. Some teens don’t know how to cope and may engage in self-harm and even contemplate suicide.

Be willing to ask for help by talking to a trusted adult or through OK2SAY if you are being coerced into sending photos or videos or believe this is happening to a friend or classmate.

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