Snap. That’s all it takes. Once you hit send, you can never get it back.
Sexting scandals are rocking high schools across the country. These incidents have made headlines everywhere and are challenging the police and educators. For the first time in Canada, a young woman who was the victim of a high school sexting scandal has come forward to reveal her story of shame, bullying and what she describes as justice denied.
When Julia Kiroauc was only 15 years old, she says her boyfriend pressured her to send him an explicit picture of herself. He repeatedly promised to share it with no one. She was in love and she trusted him so agreed. Using her cellphone, she posed for a naked photo and sent it to him
But a year later, after they broke up, Julia learned he had betrayed her. She was horrified to discover her ex and his new girlfriend posted her naked picture on Facebook. It went viral. It just a few hours, it spread to four neighbouring schools.
“I was humiliated and the trust I had for someone was completely shattered ... It was almost a feeling of being raped,” Julia told W5.
Sexting -- sending naked or semi-naked photos of yourself -- is fast becoming a common rite of passage for teens. A recent study revealed one-third of teens had sent a naked or semi-naked picture of themselves to another person. (link to study here). As W5 discovered, this high-tech form of flirting can spiral into the newest and most insidious form of cyberbullying.
Walking through the halls of Christ the King Secondary, Julia says she couldn’t stand the feeling that everyone knew what she looked like naked. But it was the taunting and name-calling that made things unbearable. , “They’d call me a slut, a whore, nice boobs on Facebook.” said Julia.
The police were called to investigate Julia’s case because sharing a naked picture of a minor, even if she’s your girlfriend, is a criminal offense. It means you are distributing child pornography. Detective Randy Norton, with Durham Region’s Internet Child Exploitation Unit, told W5 he’s worried teenagers don’t understand the consequences and the dangers associated with sharing nude photos of their peers.
“We’ve had cases where kids were actually collecting images of girls that they liked or knew and then they were exchanging them like baseball cards and hockey cards,” said Det. Norton.
Because they are under 18 and therefore protected under the Young Offenders Act, Norton can’t give us specifics as to what charges are laid. But one possible outcome could be a year in jail and being listed on the sex offender registry.
W5 tried to obtain statistics on youth sexting and child pornography convictions. We called every province and were told that no one is really keeping track of these newly emerging cases. However, experts tell us it appears courts are reluctant to prosecute sexting teens because the consequences of a child pornography conviction are so severe.
So what happened to Julia’s ex and the girl who posted her naked picture on Facebook? While we can’t identify their names because they are protected under the Young Offenders Act, W5 was able to learn that their charges were dropped.
The students involved in posting Julia’s naked photo online were punished by the school. Her ex-boyfriend received a five day suspension and his new girlfriend received a twenty day suspension. The school wouldn’t offer W5 an explanation as to why she received a greater suspension.
As for the school’s reaction, W5 discovered that even after their suspensions, Julia says they continued to bully here in the hallways. At a school assembly, Julia says they hijacked the microphone and called her a whore in front of all her classmates. In the end, Julia felt so bullied and unsafe at Christ the King Secondary, that she had to change schools.
Principal Cairine Macdonald told W5 her school is committed to raising awareness about this growing issue: “I think it’s the dignity of the victim that you really want to be cognisant of and provide support.”
Julia and her family feel the justice system and the school let them down. Deborah Doucette, Julia’s mother, told W5: “You know, Julia takes ownership for what she did. But what my daughter did when she was 15 years old was out of love. There was no maliciousness in what she did. There was total maliciousness and intent for what those other kids did to her.”
And what about Julia Kirouac’s naked photo? Despite best efforts to get the picture off the internet and off kids cell phones, Deborah said, “I can guarantee you it’s still out there.”