Just like how we protect ourselves from robbery or theft by practising certain safety habits like locking our home doors and not leaving our valuables untended, there are things we can do to protect ourselves from unwanted images.
Some good digital habits include not opening messages from people you don’t recognise, turning off your airdrop when you are not using it, and not mentioning private details like address, school and full name on your social media.
If you are at the cinema expecting to watch a comedy and suddenly, a horror movie trailer comes on, what do you do? You will probably close your eyes and maybe even your ears. In the same way, if an explicit photo pops up on your screen, immediately close the app or just put your phone away.
Then speak to a safe adult about it so they can help you investigate how the offending image appeared on your screen, and put in place better safeguards.
Now that someone you trust knows what happened, they can help answer your questions about what you saw. Don’t try to search online to figure out what you saw. You don’t have to process this alone.
By now, you may be wiser at sussing out which accounts could be dodgy when you open up that Others folder in your social media inbox.
It is still a good habit to keep your social media accounts private. If you won’t leave your front door open, why leave access to your attention open?
It is worthwhile to note that in Singapore, cyber flashing is illegal and the perpetuator can be charged with sexual exposure. It is also illegal to send sexually explicit messages and images to a minor with the intention to procure sex.
While these laws do act as a deterrent to perpetrators, there are important things you should note.
Do not forward the obscene picture received to anyone else as this can be considered disseminating sexually explicit images. You also don’t know if the original sender could be using images of others without their consent.
You may be tempted to delete the image immediately but first tell your parent or a safe adult about this so they can view the message and block the perpetuator or even lodge a report against them.
If the perpetuator is known to you, your parents can also help you decide whether to talk to the authorities about it. They can also warn the person never to do this again and highlight the consequences if they should.
In the aftermath of such an incident, you may find yourself remembering the images involuntarily. Whenever you do, instead of trying not to think about it, get up and do something else entirely. In time, these flashbacks will stop.
Unsolicited sexually explicit photos are not part of any healthy relationship.
Have honest conversations with your parents about physical boundaries and sexual boundaries within relationships. Such ongoing conversations will help you recognise what is within the boundaries of a healthy relationship and what is not.
The majority of sexual abuse cases involve people known to the victims.
If you receive an unwanted obscene photo from someone you know or even someone you are in a relationship with, you may not know how to respond.
You may feel upset, angry but also ashamed at the same time. These complicated emotions are normal. Some people may also find it hard to express their disapproval if the perpetuator is a boyfriend or girlfriend.
It is important to separate out any self-blame or shame from what happened, as hard as it can be to do so.
A relationship is built on mutual love, trust and respect. It can be hard to continue the relationship if a breach of trust like this has been made. What do you do?
Ask yourself if this was something out of character. Talk to them about how you feel. Gauge from their response whether they are genuinely apologetic for causing you stress, then decide whether what has happened has affected the relationship in an irreparable manner.
When going through periods of stress, it can be hard to make a decision all by yourself. So do choose some wise and mature safe people to speak to about this. The right counsel and advice can alleviate your fears or doubts and also help point the way forward.
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