South-west adolescent expert praises sexting offence reforms

CHANGES to the law covering the sending of sexually-explicit messages has won praise from a south-west adolescent sexuality expert.

The state government will move to create a new summary offence for non-consensual sexting, ridding Victoria of the legal requirement that means children and teenagers who send sexual imagery without permission are charged with acts of child pornography.

Brophy Family and Youth Services project worker Maree Crabbe said Victoria was at the cutting edge of legislative reform with other states likely to develop similar laws in response to sexting.

She said the proposed laws would address a problem that has grown with the widespread use of mobile phones during the past decade.

“What this legislation covers is the sending and disseminating of sexual material with malicious intent rather than having a broad law that doesn’t reflect the nature of the crime,” Ms Crabbe said.

“One problem that occurs and reoccurs is where a relationship breaks up and photos that were once considered private are distributed by an ex-partner as a way of causing emotional harm. 

“Young people who sent sexual imagery could be charged under child pornography laws even though they were under-age themselves.”

Ms Crabbe has worked extensively in the field of adolescent sexuality, releasing a documentary film produced with writer-researcher David Corlett earlier this year exploring the effect of pornography on young people.

Attorney General Robert Clark said penalties from the misuse of technology were more in line with community expectations.

“It will make it an offence to intentionally distribute, or threaten to distribute, an intimate image of another person or persons without their consent,” Mr Clark said.

“This will continue to make clear that such behaviour is unacceptable and illegal, while not treating young people who distribute such images as child pornographers.”

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