Teens face bullying as sexting on rise in schools
'SEXTING' is a "growing problem" in secondary schools - and teenage girls are often "bullied and pressurised" after sending sexually explicit images to their boyfriends.
The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) has now created a new module in this area as part of its BodyRight Programme, to highlight what it describes as a form of "sexual violence".
Next week, the Centre is rolling out the module in second level schools, and other "youth reach settings".
Over 300 guidance councillors and mental health workers will be involved in the scheme.
"Sexting is growing and increasingly prevalent. The youngsters don't really understand the implications or the consequences of their actions, either for themselves or for their friends," said Leonie O'Dowd from the Centre.
"Vulnerable young girls are being pressurised into sharing images, which can then be used in an exploitative way.
"Some kids use it as a form of bullying. These intimate images can have a severe impact on those involved for the rest of their lives.
"Our intention is prevention. By getting in there with the module, we hope the kids will realise that it's not a bit of fun, and they'll think before they press that button," she said.
‘Sexting' or ‘sex texting’ is sending sexually explicit images or videos via digital means.
Primarily such ‘sexts’ are sent using mobile phones, or social messaging applications such as Snapchat, Viber and WhatsApp.
Many victims of the social media phenomenon are unaware that they are in fact victims of "sexual violence", Ms O'Dowd told Independent.ie.
"They share intimate photos of themselves, usually with someone they think they can trust, and are in a relationship with. But sadly they are often forwarded on - and many other individuals may see them.
"We believe it is a form of sexual violence, if somebody shares an image in a relationship of trust, and that image is then circulated without their consent.
"Their grandchildren will be able to see these pictures; they're around forever. They also don't realise that if they are under a certain age it's actually a crime and there are consequences."
She said research on the exact number of those engaging in sexting has not been carried out.
"But we're increasingly hearing about it from our facilitators - some of them have said half of their work is dealing with this issue."
She was speaking at the launch of the latest Rape Crisis annual report which shows a "disturbing increase" in sexual violence last year.
Over 12,000 calls were answered by its 24-hour helpline in 2013 - the highest figure since 2009.
Some 43pc of calls related to adult rape.
Most cases of rape and other sex crimes were carried out by someone known to the victim.