Police are reminding the public that the non-consensual sharing of intimate images is a criminal offence after the Sidney / North Saanich RCMP recently dealt with a case involving youth.
Staff-Sgt. Wayne Conley said the case involving youth from North Saanich and Sidney unfolded over December and January. Conley said police dealt with the case through “alternative processes” without going into additional details. While police did not issue criminal charges in the case, police had about “four reports of this over the past three, four months,” said Conley. These types of cases might not be happening frequently, but police have seen an “increase in them over the last year or two” and not just limited to youth, he said.
As the federal Department of Justice notes, the non-consensual distribution of intimate images (including videos) can occur in various situations involving adults and youth, often during and after the break-up of relationships. Popular accounts often describe this practice as ‘revenge porn,’ with victims often subject to extortion and bullying.
Canadian law considers the publication of intimate images of someone without consent a criminal offence. The Criminal Code defines an “intimate image” as a visual recording of a person “made by any means including a photographic, film or video recording” of explicit sexual activity, nudity or partial nudity. The sharing, distribution or selling of such recording is considered illegal if someone knowingly shares such content with third parties, knowing that the person depicted in the recording would not consent.
It is illegal to distribute explicit images or videos involving a minor regardless of whether consent was given.
Recent years have seen the addition of new tools that help police find such images. Companies operating various platforms on social media also implemented policies designed to fight ‘revenge porn.’ This said, Conley said the most effective way to deal with this sort of crime is to prevent it in the first place.
“We as police will always say, ‘Don’t share images,’ but we know it is going to happen,” said Const. Vanessa Fields.
If it does happen, victims should contact police, said Conley. “The sooner, the better, because the parties involved may continue to proliferate that distribution.”
“And parents should be monitoring their children’s online activities and also have that open discussion with their kids,” added Fields. “‘Hey, I don’t want you doing this, but if you do it and this happens, you can tell me. I’m not going to be mad, but we want to get on top of this because once it gets on the Internet, it is there forever.’”
The case involving the local youth actually underscored this point.
Police actually saw what Conley called a “repeat of that distribution” on multiple occasions. “You think you have it addressed, but you actually didn’t know that somebody else had it and it got redistributed. So it came to the surface again.”
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