#sextrafficking | The power of a picture | #tinder | #pof | #match

Submitted by Safe San Juans

It usually begins in a way that seems a little flirty, a little adventurous, and maybe a little risky. But, unless you want to risk having the world see you naked, it would be good to avoid taking pictures or videos of you in your birthday suit. The best thing is to simply not take those kinds of pictures of yourself and not let others take them of you either. This is particularly true in our digital age where no picture shared or stored electronically is fail-safe from being seen. You should expect that any image you take with a digital phone or camera will eventually be seen by those you don’t want seeing it, especially when you choose to share it with anyone. That goes for any image of you that someone could take a picture of. Even if it is shared with someone you trust, it’s best to assume it might eventually be seen by others.

Modern-day sexual abuse or sex trafficking frequently begins with an image you share in private. Perhaps the person you share it with might even tell you it is a way to communicate love or affection to them. But, as with all things digital, once you send it, you no longer control what happens with it. Even a hard copy of a picture of your body can get digitally photographed or scanned, and then you no longer control it. Just remember that everyone seems nice and great until things aren’t nice and great, and then they do crazy things.

In the hands of others, images of you can be used to shame you or scare you into doing things you would not normally do, and as you do those things, they pile on shame and fear. Many people can tell stories of having been made to act in response to an ever-growing threat until they found themselves living a life they never dreamed of living. The threat is that what you want to stay private will now be made visible unless you do something. The person may say, “If you don’t want me to send this to (fill in the blank), then take another picture and send it to me.” Or, “meet me or fill in the blank.” Then you hear, “If you tell anyone about this, then I’ll send the picture or tell others.” This kind of cyber-bullying or cyber assault could amount to a crime, yet it happens frequently. If this is something that has happened to you and you want help, please contact SAFE San Juans or the Sheriff’s Office.

Not only are these kinds of pictures damaging to the person photographed, but they can also be destructive to you as the viewer. Storing them on your computer or cloud storage so you can keep looking at them, and/or sending them to others can get you charged for a sex crime depending on the victim’s age and situation. If someone sends you a picture of another person naked and wants you to look at it, don’t go there. If you receive a photo of someone naked asking you to meet them, don’t do it – It’s quite possible that the person is being trafficked, and you will only be victimizing them further (and that can be a crime). If someone sends you a nude picture or picture of a sex act with a minor, someone you suspect to be a minor, or a picture of when they were a minor, report this to the Sheriff’s Office immediately.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The staff of SAFE San Juans is providing a weekly newspaper article to highlight important issues related to this topic. For information about SAFE San Juans call 360-378-8680 or visit one of our offices in Eastsound, Friday Harbor, or Lopez Village. If you are in a domestic violence or sexual assault crisis and need immediate help, please call our 24-hour crisis line at 360-378-2345.

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