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Monday 22 September 2014

Teenage girls bullied over nude 'selfies'

Mark O'Regan and Katherine Donnelly

Published 04/09/2014 | 02:30

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Vulnerable young girls are being pressurised into sharing intimate photos, which can then be used in an exploitative way .
Teens often don't realise the implications of their actions
Teens often don't realise the implications of their actions

A growing problem of "sexting" is leading to increasing numbers of teenage girls being bullied after sending sexually explicit images to their boyfriends.

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Vulnerable young girls are being pressurised into sharing intimate photos, which can then be used in an exploitative way .

Primarily such 'sexts' are sent using mobile phones, or social messaging applications such as Snapchat, Viber and WhatsApp.

Although pressurised into sending the inappropriate pictures, the victims tend to be blamed and many are unaware that they are in fact being subjected to what the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) classifies as "sexual violence.

The worrying trend has prompted the DRCC to seek to combat the problem directly with teenage students in schools and other education  settings, such as Youthreach.

It has drawn up a module to be used in association with its Bodyright sexual violence awareness-raising programme, aimed primarily at 16-year-olds in Transition Year, although it may also be used with other groups.

Read more: Editorial: Protecting children from online risks

The ‘sexting’ module, which includes DVDs on the issue produced in Australia and the UK, will be rolled out in coming weeks to be used by those already trained in the Bodyright programme.

Overall, the DRCC has trained about 300 Bodyright facilitators, including guidance counsellors and teachers in almost 70 of the country’s 730 second-level schools.

While bullying, cyberbullying and relationships and sex are dealt with in schools under a variety of headings, such as Social Personal and Health Education and anti-bullying programmes, DRCC felt the need to respond specifically to the emerging problem with ‘sexting’.

Leonie O’Dowd of the DRCC said at this stage it was a pilot programme.

Ms O’Dowd said ‘sexting’ was increasingly prevalent and “youngsters don’t really understand the implications or the consequences of their actions, either for themselves or for their friends.

“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.

She said research on the exact number of those engaging in sexting has not been carried out, but this year they were increasingly hearing about it from their facilitators.

Opinion: Checking their phones is lesser of two evils

“Some of them have said half of their work is dealing with this issue,” said Ms O’Dowd.

She said their intention was “prevention” and by teaching the module they hoped the children would “realise that it’s not a bit of fun, and they’ll think before they press that button”.

The BodyRight programme has been developed with funding provided by Cosc – The National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence.

It is aimed at helping participants to examine their own and others’ attitudes and behaviours with regard to sexual violence and explore how these attitudes affect the person who experiences sexual violence.

Read more: Facebook and Twitter can't stop children setting up secret accounts

Ms O’Dowd was speaking at the launch of the latest Rape Crisis annual report which shows a “disturbing increase” in sexual violence last year.

More than 12,000 calls were answered by its 24-hour helpline in 2013 – the highest figure since 2009.

Around 43pc of calls related to adult rape.

Most cases of rape and other sex crimes were carried out by someone known to the victim.

Irish Independent

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