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What is Non-Consensual Photo Sharing?

Whether a sexual activity is happening in person or online, voluntary consent is required. Voluntary consent is a freely given, mutual, active, sober, enthusiastic agreement to engage in sexual activity. This means that it is not okay to pressure, manipulate, or coerce someone into sending an intimate photo.

You are also not allowed to send someone an unsolicited sexual or nude photo of yourself. If someone has consensually sent you an intimate photo, you are not allowed to show or otherwise disseminate that photo to anyone else; consent is person-specific.

Finally, because people always have the right to change their minds, you are obligated to delete an intimate photo of someone if the individual in that photo asks you to do so. If someone has sent you a photo with a restriction on the amount of time you can view it (e.g. through Snapchat) it is implied that they are consenting for you to view the photo only during that specific time period.

It is always illegal for an adult to produce, access, distribute, or be in possession of images of child sexual abuse or sexually explicit images of someone under the age of 18. If you suspect a child is being exploited for sexual images, call the child abuse hotline at 1.800.387.KIDS (5437). If a child or youth is being pressured or manipulated into sharing sexual images online reports of this abuse can be made anonymously at Canada’s National Tip Line for Reporting the Online Sexual Exploitation of Children.

If a youth under the age of 18 is voluntarily consenting to exchange intimate photos with a peer, this is not considered child pornography*. Youth can only get charged with child pornography if photos have been obtained through emotional manipulation or if the distribution of the photos has been malicious.

If you are a parent and you are concerned about how to talk to youth about non-consensual photo sharing call our Support and Information Line from 9 am to 9 pm daily at 780-423-4121.

For specific online information and support around non-consensual photo sharing, visit needhelpnow.ca.

*Though “child pornography” is the legally accurate term to use at this time, SACE recognizes the problematic nature of this term; the word “pornography” suggests consent or that the behaviour isn’t abusive. Instead, we prefer to use terms such as “images of child sexual abuse” or “child sexual abuse material” to make it clear that sexual images of children are child sexual abuse.

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