WINNIPEG – The Canadian Centre for Child Protection says it has received almost 350 reports in the last 10 months of sexual images being shared online without people’s consent.
Nearly half the cases from across Canada involved teenagers between 15 and 17.
“When we look at today’s reality for young people, it is not an easy one,” Lianna McDonald, the non-profit group’s executive director, said Monday.
“There are those individuals who misuse technology to exploit and to abuse vulnerable people.”
McDonald spoke alongside Manitoba government officials to mark a new law against so-called revenge porn and other online abuse. The law, first promised last spring and in effect since Friday, allows any Manitoban whose intimate images are shared without consent to sue the perpetrators.
“Bullying isn’t required, just the distribution of the images,” said Attorney General Gord Mackintosh, who called the new law the first of its kind in Canada.
The legislation also empowers the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, which is funded federally and provincially, to help victims to get their images taken down from websites and social media platforms.
“The job is to get the pictures down, to get them back, to get lives back,” Mackintosh said.
The centre is still working to raise awareness of the potentially devastating effects of sharing sexual photos on the Internet, even after highly publicized examples.
Rehtaeh Parsons of Cole Harbour, N.S., was 17 when she was taken off life support after attempting suicide in 2013. Her family alleged she was sexually assaulted at the age of 15 and then bullied after a photo was shared online.
Amanda Todd, who was 15, killed herself at her Port Coquitlam, B.C., home in 2012 after an explicit photo of her was shared on Facebook.
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Mackintosh was joined by a woman who said her daughter has recently had intimate photos shared online against her will.
“It is not easy for me to stand here and tell you about the damage that has been caused because my daughter’s images were shared,” the woman said before she broke down crying. Someone else stepped in to read a prepared statement.
The woman’s daughter’s identity is protected by a publication ban. Three other young people were convicted in the case, said an official with the centre.