Online safety / June 07, 2022

Starting the conversation around online sexual violence

Canadian Centre for Child Protection

Canadian Centre for Child Protection

protectkidsonline.ca

Starting the conversation around online sexual violence

With increased time spent online, teens have become more and more vulnerable to online sexual violence. Over the past year, Cybertip.ca, Canada’s tipline for reporting online child sexual exploitation, has seen a 37% in the overall online victimization of children*. Offenders are intensifying control tactics, increasing the use of humiliation, and utilizing multiple accounts to target youth.

One of the most concerning trends is that, in a lot of cases of online sexual violence, youth are not telling anyone what is going on (e.g. friends, family, school). Many fear being victim-blamed, are worried about letting down the adults in their life, or just don’t know who to turn to for help. This underscores the critical need to teach youth skills to help them safely navigate the online world, know how to identify risky situations, and where to go for help if someone is trying to harm them online.

What is online sexual violence?

Online sexual violence is a broad term that includes unsolicited and unwanted sexual actions and behaviours online. Some examples of online sexual violence include:

  • Someone randomly sending sexual images (e.g. cyber flashing) and/or sexual messages online.

    ○ Girls, in particular, are increasingly experiencing cyber flashing on platforms like Snapchat® and Instagram®. Unfortunately, this form of online sexual violence is becoming widely accepted as a “new norm.”

  • Unwanted and random requests to send sexual images or videos from someone you may or may not know.

    ○ Even if youth know the person who is requesting sexual images or videos, this kind of content when sent under pressure is not considered consensual.

  • Recording without someones knowledge and forwarding, posting or threating to forward/post those sexual images or videos.

Pressure and coercion tactics to share sexual content have also become increasingly aggressive by both unknown adults and youth’s’ peers. Some control tactics used by offenders to pressure youth into sending sexual images even include showing youth that the offender knows their home address by sending items like empty boxes to their house.

Online sexual violence is very different from sharing intimate images within a consensual relationship. Online sexual violence is unwanted, unsolicited and aggressive.

What can parents do?

It’s important to be aware of the increasing instances of online sexual violence that youth are exposed to. Here are some things we strongly encourage:

  • Have regular conversations with your kids to increase their awareness about safety concerns online and talk with them about how to handle situations they may encounter. To help get the conversation started around sexual violence, see Cybertip.ca’s How to Talk with Teens about Online Sexual Violence.
  • Stay curious about the social pressures your teen is facing in our digital world, listen and try to understand what they’re faced with and how they feel about it.
  • Talk about the risks involved in sharing sexual images online.
  • Remind your teen that you’re in their corner and it’s your job to try to prevent bad things from happening to them. Let them know that even if they find themselves in over their head, they can always come to you for help. It’s important to remind teens that the supportive adults in their lives will always stand by them and help them get through tough situations together.

It’s also important for parents to know that instances of online sexual violence require immediate intervention. You can report online sexual violence and victimization to cybertip.ca/report.

What can youth do?

If youth experience any form of online sexual violence, they should talk to a trusted adult like a parent, guardian or teacher. Youth can also report any form of online sexual violence or victimization to cybertip.ca. For more information and resources for both families and youth, visit cybertip.ca/osv.

*2021 versus 2020.

Tags:
Sextortion
Safe digital habits
Cyberbullying
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