Number of girls sharing explicit images hits epidemic levels

13 October 2016

Rhian Deutrom The Courier Mail, 12 October 2016

Teenage girls are being coerced into sending explicit photos of themselves to boys in a disturbing phenomenon that advocacy groups warn has reached epidemic proportions.

A study of 600 Australian girls aged between 15 and 19 found more than 50 per cent felt pressured to send “sexy” photos of themselves to boys, while 58 per cent agreed that women were frequently exposed to unwanted and indecent material like text messages, videos and photos.

The “Don’t send me that pic” report, conducted by family violence advocacy group Our Watch, found that young women reported that online abuse and harassment was widespread.

Despite more than 80 per cent of girls believing it was “unacceptable” for boyfriends to request naked photos, just under half felt uncomfortable reporting abusive behaviour.

Our Watch chief executive Mary Barry told The Courier Mail that harassment and bullying online was now considered “normal”.

“Young Australian women are facing an epidemic of online harassment and bullying and it’s now considered normal for them to be sent unwanted sexually explicit texts, photos and pornography,” Ms Barry said.

“demanding naked pictures and sending unwanted sexual images is not normal, safe behaviour.”

Ms Barry said the sexting phenomenon was a form of sexual harassment “plain and simple” and called for more school education programs on respectful relationships.

“Governments need to take online sexual harassment seriously and fund respectful relationships education,” she said. “These programs must address online bullying, sexual harassment and the way that violent pornography is shaping our childrens’ perceptions about sex and relationships.”

Alliance of Girls’ Schools Australasia executive officer Loren Bridge described the report’s findings as “appalling”.

“Clearly it is more important than ever for girls’ schools to continue to provide safe and protective environment for girls to learn, including empowering girls to report bullying and reject unwanted sexual harassment,” Ms Bridge said.

“Parents and the wider community must also play a role by checking in with girls to make sure they are not being cyberbullied or pressured into viewing or sending unwanted explicit material”.

She said the impetus also rested with boys to respect the wishes of young women.

“Boys need to hear the clear message that girls do not wish to send or receive sexually explicit texts, photos or videos, and that it is never okay to use sexually explicit material to harm or control girls,” she said.