AT least one of the “sexting” cases under investigation in the North East involves students at a special school.
Police at Wangaratta announced yesterday new investigations were under way into a recent series of sexting incidences in the Wangaratta and Moira areas.
This has sparked a plea for the public to report all such incidents to police, and for teenagers to consider the consequences carefully before texting — or resharing — explicit images of themselves or others.
Detective Sen-Constable Romina McEwan confirmed the Wangaratta Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation team was looking into several separate cases, though she could not say how many exactly.
All involved younger teenagers and at least one student at the Wangaratta District Specialist School.
Sen-Constable McEwan said there were several complexities in policing the matters and discretionary powers would be used on the possibility of charges.
“I’d argue a lot of young people don’t really understand how grave it can be,” she said.
She said cases often occurred with young people sending pictures of themselves “often when they’re in a relationship”, but those images were circulated once the relationship ended.
Many of the images sent could constitute child pornography, she said, but young people were often oblivious.
Penalties for child pornography are five years jail for possession, and 10 years for production, publication or transmission.Those found guilty could also see themselves placed on the sex offenders register.
“The biggest message to parents and children is once it’s out there, it stays out there,” Sen-Constable McEwan said.
She encouraged parents to discuss the issue with their children: “I understand teenagers don’t really like to talk to their parents at the best of times, but you’ve got to keep the lines of communication open”.
Upper Murray Centre Against Sexual Assault chief executive officer Kerry Burns said she had seen young people seek help for a range of issues related to sexting — from distress after images were circulated, to a sexual assault sparked by a conversation online.
“It might all seem good fun at the time, but it’s how it’s used afterwards that’s the problem,” Ms Burns said.
“It’s an area where young people do need to learn to protect themselves and both boys and girls need to think about treating each other with respect, and with consent.”
Sexting incidents can be reported by calling Wangaratta SOCAT on (03) 5722 2203.