Recovering from a Sexting Incident
Sexting has become such a widespread problem in our world today that has hurt so many people. Many who have fallen victim to this often feel vulnerable to everyone around them, like they have no one to turn to and no way out of the situation. If you happen to be one who has walked through this or know someone who has, we want you to know that you’re not alone in this and there is hope for you.
Sexting usually refers to sending nude or partially nude photos by text message. Of course, it can also happen over social media platforms and with laptop webcams. Research shows that approximately 1 in 7 teenagers reports sending sex-texts (sexts) and about 1 in 4 teens report receiving sexts.
So what happens after a sext is sent or received?
As we explained in another blog post on this topic, sometimes sexts are used for cyberbullying or revenge porn, sometimes sext photos are obtained by sexual predators, and sometimes law enforcement becomes involved because sexual or nude images of people under the age of 18 are illegal.
Maybe you sent a sext and now regret it because of the fallout. Or maybe you received a sext that ended up causing a lot of problems for you. What do you do now?
If you sent a sext and quickly lost control of the situation —
First, we want you to know that nobody deserves to be bullied, manipulated, blackmailed, or preyed upon. Even if you willingly made the choice to send a photo to someone you trusted, you don’t deserve to be mistreated. Yes, sending sexts is risky, but that doesn’t mean you deserve to be harmed. The person who posted or shared your pictures without your permission has intentionally hurt you, and that is wrong.
If your embarrassing or compromising photo ended up in the hands of people you never meant to see you, it’s normal for you to be upset or feel humiliated. Your pain and embarrassment can be made worse by people who victim-blame and shame. If that has happened to you, we’re so sorry. No one deserves to be treated this way.
So what can you do? Well, if someone has publicly shared an image you intended to be private, you may be able to take legal action. Some states have enacted revenge porn laws and most states have laws against sextortion — if you’re a minor and someone coerced you to send a nude picture of yourself. Before you talk to police, research your state laws because some states prosecute teens who send nude photos of themselves, charging them with child pornography distribution. And obviously – you don’t want to open yourself up to that. If this has happened to you, talk to your parents, a teacher, or a counselor. Your local legal aid office may also be able to answer some questions over the phone and give you some advice.
More important than legal action, though, is your need to take care of yourself emotionally and mentally. If you haven’t already, talk to an adult you can trust — a parent, a counselor, a pastor, a teacher. This can be a very traumatic experience and trying to hide or fix things on your own without help may lead to further harm to you. Find someone who will support you, encourage you, and love you through this.
We know this may seem like the end of the world — and that’s totally understandable. But fortunately, our culture’s attention spans are pretty short. Within a few days, there will be some new drama taking over social media and the gossip in your town. Hang in there. The emotions and thoughts you’ve experienced as a result of this won’t last forever. It takes time to heal.
If you received a sext and quickly lost control of the situation –
First, if you’re in legal trouble, seek counsel from a lawyer. A good lawyer will advise you of your rights and your best options.
But aside from the legal aspect, you may be living with a lot of guilt or shame right now. It’s important for you to know that you will recover from this. Even when our mistakes seem overwhelming, we can move forward.
It may help you to talk to a professional counselor or therapist. Either one can help you process all the emotions you might be experiencing. They can also help you find appropriate ways to apologize to anyone you may have hurt or harmed.
Whether you sent a sext you’ve come to regret or whether you received a sext and caused someone else harm, this doesn’t have to be the defining moment of your life. You’re so much more than this one thing. You are so valuable – worthy of love, of forgiveness, of respect.
If you need someone to talk to, we’re here for you. Call us and one of our staff members will listen and help you find the resources you need to walk through this.