Submission to Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement: Law Enforcement Capabilities in Relation to Child Exploitation
Sub calls for increased sentencing, age verification and state laws against child sex abuse dolls
In our submission on Law Enforcement Capabilities in Relation to child exploitation we highlighted our decade of work to combat child sexual exploitation. We informed the Committee on a range of related topics including Live Distant Child Abuse, sexting, self-generated child sexual abuse material, weak sentencing for perpetrators of child exploitation crimes, and the need for a fast-tracked age verification system to help protect children from exposure to pornography.Read more
School holidays are here and there's no better time to review the safeguards you have in place to protect your children from online predators and sexploitation. Here, we give you some handy tips, resources and links to help keep your family safe these holidays.Read more
Schoolgirls as young as 12 will be taught how to send naked selfies in Victorian schools.
The ‘Art of safe sexting’ program is to be rolled out in classrooms to instruct school girls how to ‘safely’ send nude images of themselves, apparently by cropping out their heads and faces and any identifying features.
In a five-minute video on Rosie website, girls are told that “sending a nude pic of yourself can be a fun and flirty thing to do” and given tips on “sexting done right”. It also provided information about relevant laws and some of the risks of sending naked images.
Program author Briony O’Keefe argued, “We know they are going to engage in it, so a harm minimisation approach is really important.” However, experts have slammed the program and accused it of promoting misinformation.
Former Victoria Police officer and cyber-safety expert Susan McLean called the information “flakey” and “a crap resource”, and emphasised there was no safe way to send a naked image.
Collective Shout co-founder and advocate for women and girls Melinda Tankard Reist said that encouraging teen girls to crop their heads and faces out of sexualised images serves to further dehumanise girls:
“The art of safe sexting' advises girls to crop out their faces from nude images before sending. This just de-humanises the sender even more and exposes the complicity of the program's designers in encouraging girls to send de-personalised/ disembodied sexual body parts for boys to get off on.”
The program does a disservice to girls by promoting sexting as a potentially fun and sexy activity. The reality is more complicated, with many teen girls reporting feeling pressured and coerced to send nude photos, and a widespread culture of sexual harassment, disrespect and male entitlement.
A study out of Northwestern University earlier this year revealed teen girls’ experiences of being pressured to send nude images. Researchers analysed 500 accounts from teenage girls, finding two-thirds had been asked to send explicit photos, with boys engaging in threats and harassment if they did not comply. In response, 20% of the girls gave in.
The adolescent girls shared both immediate and long-term repercussions of saying no to boys’ demands. Out of the 500, only 12 said there was no backlash from refusing boys’ requests for naked images. Girls described feeling trapped, stuck or scared of the consequences of saying both yes or no. One reported death threats after saying no. Read more.
Closer to home, a Plan International Australia and Our Watch survey in 2016 of 600 girls aged 15-19 found that levels of abuse and harassment were endemic:
58% agreed girls often receive uninvited or unwanted indecent or sexually explicit material such as texts, video clips and pornography.
51% agreed that girls are often pressured to take sexy photos of themselves and share them.
82% believe it is unacceptable for a boyfriend to ask a girlfriend to share naked photos of themselves.
The harm minimisation approach which encourages girls to crop photos of identifying features implies that the only harm in underage girls sending naked photos of themselves lies in later being identifiable. However, she would be identifiable by other means if the recipient wanted to get revenge and share the image. It’s also not unheard of for men and boys to photoshop heads onto such photos.
The program completely ignores the overarching problem of girls existing as a pornographic supply for boys. We do not see websites devoted to ‘dick pics’ or to humiliating men and boys, however boys trade sexual images of girls like trading cards. Encouraging girls to participate ‘safely’ does not challenge this culture of objectification or the entitlement of men and boys. It is clear this practice does not quench boys thirst for objectified women, it makes it worse.
“Harm minimisation” fails to address the actual factors at play- the pressures on women and girls to send sexual images against their will. Teaching young women how to acquiesce to men and boys’ coercion and sexual demands is not a solution.
While there is a need to have frank and open discussions with young people about sexting, legitimising the practice as a fun, sexy activity does a great disservice to girls, many of whom have openly described their reluctance.
Far from empowering young women, the ‘Art of Safe Sexting’ encourages underage girls to tolerate and embrace requests for sexual images even while teen girls are reporting feeling trapped, stuck, scared, pressured and coerced. Legitimising sexting does not minimise harm, it undermines girls’ ability to say no.
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A new study out of Northwestern University has revealed teenage girls’ experiences of pressure and coercion from boys to send nude images.
Researchers analysed 500 accounts from teenage girls, finding that two- thirds were asked to send explicit photos, with boys engaging in threats and harassment if they did not comply. In response, 20% of girls gave in.
The adolescent girls shared the immediate and long-term repercussions of saying no to boy’s demands, with boys getting angry and threatening to end their relationships.
Of 500 accounts, only 12 revealed there was no backlash from refusing boy’s requests for nude images. Girls described feeling trapped, stuck or scared of the consequences of both sending and not sending photos. One even reported death threats after saying no. Others found a compromise, sending a picture of their face or a photo they found on the internet.
None of the girls who sent photos reported feeling any relief or benefit, and expressed fear of photos being distributed and lower self-esteem.
“A guy sent a naked picture of me to the whole school including my principal and my parents then everyone who got it sent it to their phonebooks which resulted in about 300 plus people having my naked body on their phone,” one girl said.
From the Daily Mail:
Researchers found that the girls often felt the burden of the situation as their issue and not a problem with the boy.
“Young women’s language suggested that they did not problematize the boys’ coercive and threatening behaviour. Young men were not criticised or denounced for sharing young women’s (presumably) consensually shared bodies without their consent,” Thomas said in the study.
This research is consistent with our experiences meeting with young women in high schools around the country, who describe feeling coerced into sending sexual images and performing unwanted sex acts by their male classmates. An all too common refrain we hear is “How do I say no without hurting his feelings?”
In 2014, Collective Shout co-founder Melinda Tankard Reist recorded messages from teenage girls to be shared with the boys. Several of these messages touched on pressure from boys and the consequences girls faced when they didn’t comply with their wishes:
‘If we reject your request to send a sexual image, please don’t stop talking to us.’
‘If we say no, accept it, don’t try to persuade us.’
‘Respect our boundaries.’
‘Just because we don’t say no doesn’t mean we are saying yes.’
Geelong females are being targeted in a pornographic online forum posting sexual images of women and girls without their consent, reported the Geelong Advertiser this week:
A recent post on the image-sharing forum, which shows revenge porn, seeks “good ones” from Geelong and Werribee alongside images of a female in states of undress.
Another post, from December, seeks nudes from Geelong and Werribee of a specific woman who claimed to work in the sex industry.
The site has users from around Australia, and even requests for images of girls who attended certain schools.
Users share images taken from social media platforms including Snapchat.
We were approached for comment:
Grassroots activist group Collective Shout is “frequently hearing stories from adolescent girls of sexual harassment from their male classmates, sexist bullying, requests for nude images, unsolicited sexual images,” spokeswoman Caitlin Roper said.
Ms Roper said the “discussion is often centred on why women take sexual images rather than why men distribute these images without consent to punish and humiliate women.”
“This is not unlike much of the discourse around rape and sexual assault, where women are again being held responsible for the criminal acts of men and expected to modify their behaviour in order to avoid being victimised,” she said.
But we cannot adequately address the rise of image based abuse, or so-called ‘revenge porn’, without considering the significant role of pornography and its toxic messages about men, women and sex.
Mainstream pornography is a “distortion of respect based sexuality”, reinforcing notions of male dominance and aggression and female sexual submission. It fuels a sense of entitlement in men and boys to the bodies of women and girls, who are portrayed as always ‘up for it’ and as existing for men’s use and pleasure. In porn, women’s humanity is diminished.
Pornography is the primary tool of sex education for young people. We can’t underestimate its power in fuelling sexist attitudes towards women. When boys’ introduction to sexuality is the filmed sexual abuse and humiliation of women in pornography, it has an impact on how their real-world interactions with women and girls, and we are seeing it here.
Victims are being encouraged to report images to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner so they can seek “rapid removal” of the material.
This week Collective Shout ambassador, Kerryn Baird, spoke to Andrew West on radio regarding her concerns about the pornified culture that young people have to navigate.
Girls as young as six years old want to be sexy because of the pornified imagery they are bombarded by in their daily life.
Kerryn is concerned for her own three children and says communities, government and corporates are all responsible.
Click below to listen.
Opinion: Our kids exposed to an adult world
Melinda Tankard Reist
The Courier-Mail is to be commended for its series on the hypersexualisation of our young people — especially the impacts on children by allowing them to be exposed to porn even before their first kiss.
What has been documented here in the Generation Sext campaign is what I’m hearing everywhere I go.Read more