Abuse Using Technology

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August 24, 2016

If I send a sexually explicit or intimate image to someone, can that person send it to others?

If you send someone intimate pictures of yourself (often referred to as “sexting” if done over texting or a messaging service), it may be unlawful for that person to post or share those pictures without your permission.  The very fact that you sent the pictures to a person does not give that person automatic permission to share the image with anyone or to publish it widely.  However, whether or not it is against the law to share those photos will depend on your state’s specific definition of the crimes related to nonconsensual image sharing as well as the age of the person in the image.  If someone sends (or possesses) an image of a minor in which the minor is “engaging in sexually explicit conduct,” which could mean that the minor is nude or semi-nude, this may violate federal child pornography laws.  You can read more about what types of images may come under federal child pornography laws on the U.S. Department of Justice website.

There may be additional legal protections you can seek if a person shares a sexually explicit or intimate image of you.  For example, depending on the laws in your state, you may be eligible for a restraining order or may have other options in civil court that could help you. You may want to speak with a lawyer in your state for legal advice about your specific situation.