An issue of consent
Something is flawed within our justice system when victims of crime continue to be victimized, while the guilty are given every protection under the law. The case revolves around six young Nova Scotia men who shared intimate photos of girls as young as 13 without their consent. The boys formed a Facebook group where they exchanged photos of at least 20 girls, ranging in age from 13 to 17.
The six young men were under 18 when the offences were committed, which means their identities are protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. They will face limited repercussions for their actions.
No such protection is afforded the 20 young girls whose photos were posted to social media. Those images will likely never be expunged and will continue as a source of pain and embarrassment for them and their families for years to come. They will be bullied, taunted and placed at risk.
Based on recent tragic examples in Sydney, Halifax and elsewhere, the authorities and families must ensure the safety of these 20 young girls. They must be protected and given whatever assistance necessary to get past this traumatic experience.
Before launching their ill-advised scheme, it’s doubtful the six young men considered the case of Nova Scotia teen Rehtaeh Parsons. She committed suicide after a photo of her being sexually assaulted was circulated among students at her school in Cole Harbour. The photo and subsequent on-line bullying were blamed as factors in her tragic death.
As a result of the Parsons tragedy, a law was passed in 2015 to deter the non-consensual sharing of intimate images. The Bridgewater case will be an important test of the law. The judge must act appropriately and set an example that such behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
But some experts warn it remains unclear if the law will be a deterrent. Circulation of intimate images has become the norm and teens’ attitudes have shifted. There is a new mode of sexual expression for young people; and are we willing to use the law against so many young people who are dong this?
The key word is consent. And consent was not given in the Bridgewater case.
Parents must take heed from Bridgewater and warn their children about such activity. Girls must never share their intimate photos with anyone. Boys must learn that victimizing girls in such a fashion will have severe consequences.
The Crown recommends that the young men should be prohibited from using social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat. It recommends against jail time, and says the six young men should be on probation for two years or less. It all seems like a slap on the wrist. The guilty must learn that girls cannot be viewed as bartering chips or baseball cards. A criminal act was committed.
The girls are innocent and the boys are guilty. The courts must act appropriately to hammer home that message loud and clear.