Sexting & image-based abuse
Sexting is when you share sexualised images (including videos) or messages using a computer, mobile phone, or other mobile device.
Sexting is a crime when it involves a young person who is or looks like they are under the age of 18. These laws are different from the laws about the age of consent for having sex.
It is against the law to take, keep, send or ask for a sexualised image of a young person who is under the age of 18 years old, even if they consent. If you are under the age of 18, it is also against the law to take, keep or send a sexualised image of yourself (for example, a selfie).
This can be treated as child pornography and serious legal consequences apply. In WA, there are more charges that can apply if the young person is under the age of 16.
Texts, chats, emails and online comments that are sexual in nature (for example, 'dirty texts') and relate to a young person under 18 years old can also be against the law, even if they don't include images or videos.
Image-based abuse involves sharing or threatening to share a sexualised image of a person of any age without their consent. Image-based abuse is a crime.
This information will help you to understand what the law says about sexualised images and sexting. Find out:
- what a 'sexualised image' means
- what you should do if someone sends or asks for a sexualised image, and
- what you can do about a sexualised image that is already out there.
What is a 'sexualised image'?
A sexualised image is any picture, photo or video that shows a young person naked, partially naked, in their underwear, in a sexual pose, or engaging in sexual activity.
This includes real photos and pictures, photo-shopped images, videos, stories, drawings and even cartoons. They can be digital, electronic or printed.
It does not include images that a reasonable person would find acceptable, such as a photo of a baby naked in a bath, or a person in their bathers at the beach.
If you are not sure: don’t take it, keep it, send it or ask for it.
Can I take a sexy photo of myself if I'm under 18?
It you are under the age of 18, it is against the law to create or keep a sexualised image of yourself, even if you don't plan on sharing or showing it to anyone else.
What if a young person agrees to send me a sexualised image?
Even if the young person willingly sends you a sexualised image of themselves, or agrees to let you take a sexualised image of them, it is still against the law if they are under 18 years old.
Even if you are over the age of 18, you still can't take, keep, send or ask for a sexualised image of someone who is not yet 18 years old.
These laws apply, even though the young person may be over the age of consent for having sex.
What can I say if someone asks me for a sexy photo or video?
You have the right to say 'no' to being involved in any type of sexual activity, including being in a sexy photo or video.. A person who really cares about you will respect your decision, even if they're disappointed.
You should talk to an adult you can trust if you are worried or are being pressured to do something you don't want to.
What can I do about a picture that's already out there?
If you're worried about a picture or video that you have already sent, you should delete it from your phone and computer. Ask the person who received it to delete it from their phone and computer, and ask them not to send it to anyone else.
If you are worried that they didn't delete it, or if you find out that they have sent it to someone else, get help from an adult you trust.
The Office of the eSafety Commissioner has more information about what you can do to remove images that have been put online.
What are the criminal consequences for sexting offences?
Sexting offences that involve sexualised images of young people under the age of 18 are treated as child pornography offences and you can be sent to prison for a long time.
If you are convicted of certain sexual offences, you will be declared a ‘reportable offender’ and be placed on the sex offender register. This will make it very difficult for you to work with children and you will need to let police know every time you change your address, change the way you look, change jobs or plan to travel.
Make sure you speak to a lawyer before you answer any police questions or do a video record of interview. If you are charged with a sexting offence, get legal advice as soon as possible.