Online Sexual Violence

Online Sexual Violence represents any form or instance of sexual abuse, violence, or harassment that is perpetrated through the use of digital media technology, including chatrooms, social media apps, and websites.

It can affect anyone with access to the Internet, regardless of their age.

Most Common Forms of Online Sexual Violence

Online sexual violence can occur in many forms. It’s important to know the common ways sexual violence can be committed in order to respond carefully and thoughtfully. Together we can end online sexual violence in our communities.

  • Unsolicited Image Sharing: the sending or forwarding of nude or intimate images to others without consent. 
  • Grooming: the process of manipulating someone (often a minor) into thinking they are in a healthy and loving relationship to facilitate sexual contact.
  • Luring: using technology to coerce minors with the intention of meeting offline for sexual contact.  
  • Online Sexual Exploitation: a form of sexual abuse that occurs through social media, apps, online games, and chat-based websites where someone, usually an adult, abuses their power and authority over another person, often a minor, for sexual purposes. 
  • Sextortion: the act of extorting someone for financial or sexual purposes by threatening to distribute their intimate images to others.  
  • Child Sexual Abuse Material: includes the distribution, possession, or creation of any imagery or videos depicting a person under the age of 18 engaged in explicit sexual activity or appearing nude or semi-nude.

Online Child Sexual Exploitation

Online child sexual exploitation is a very serious form of child sexual abuse that occurs through technology and digital media, affecting minors under the age of 18 in Canada.

Forms of online child sexual exploitation might include:

  • Adults trying to form relationships with minors through social media or chat-based messaging.
  • Adults asking for photos of minors either nude or semi-nude, or engaging in sexual acts. 
  • Adults sending photos of themselves nude or engaged in sexual acts to minors. 
  • Asking to have sexual video chats or phone calls with minors. 
  • Asking to take a minor on a date, meet up for sexual activity, or hang out in person. 
  • Offering to send minor gifts, money, affection, status, or work in exchange for nude, semi-nude, or sexual images or videos.

All of these forms of online child sexual exploitation are ILLEGAL under the Criminal Code of Canada, even if the minor and the adult are in a consensual sexual relationship.

More Information: Sextortion

Sextortion is one of the most common forms of teen dating violence today, but it is important to note that it can affect people of any age. Sextortion happens when someone threatens to distribute intimate images to friends, family, coworkers, or the public unless the person in the image sends them something in return. Often, they ask for money or additional sexual content, including more images or videos. 

Sextortion is on the rise in Canada. If you have experienced this type of crime, reach out for help by calling Saffron Centre. There are options to report sextortion to the platform it occurred on, various internet safety platforms that serve Canadians, and police in your area. We can help you to understand what options are available to you, and connect you to counselling support.

Effects of Online Sexual Violence

Experiencing online sexual violence can be scary and can generate a variety of trauma reactions. It is common for people impacted by these crimes to feel shame, fear, guilt, and embarrassment for sharing images or building a relationship with the person who hurt them. Trauma affects everyone differently, and there is no wrong way to experience it.

Tips for Online Safety

Saffron is committed to preventing the occurrence of online sexual violence. Here are some steps that can be taken to stay safe online:

  • You do not have to respond to any requests for intimate images. You can ignore the message, or just say “no” with no further explanation.
  • If you don’t know the person or just met them, consider the level of trust you have in them, and the potential outcomes of sending them what they are asking for. 
  • If anyone makes you feel uncomfortable online, you can always report their account, block them, or tell a trusted adult.
  • Block them from all social media. 
  • Consider reporting them to the platform (Snapchat, Instagram, etc).
  • Never send the pictures to friends or post them online – this is a crime.
  • Immediately stop all communication with the person threatening you and do not comply with any of their requests, even if you feel pressured to. 
  • Gather as much evidence as possible by saving records of conversations, information from the person’s social media profiles, and any other information about them you have. 
  • Deactivate but do not delete your account – threatening to release your intimate images is illegal, and deleting your account makes gathering evidence more difficult. 
  • Reach out to support services and consider reporting to the police. Saffron is here to provide you with police reporting information, emotional support, and counselling services. You do not have to access counselling to receive police and court support. Reporting to police is not required to access Saffron’s services. 

Parenting and Online Safety

Parenting children and teenagers to stay safe online can be a stressful experience for caregivers, especially if they aren’t familiar with the most commonly used apps and platforms. Saffron recommends an action plan for preventing online sexual violence for parents, which includes the following steps:

  1. Talk to your children about safety online. 
  2. Regulate internet usage where possible and appropriate. 
  3. Model and educate your children about healthy relationships. 
  4. Know the signs of online sexual violence, and don’t be afraid to act. 

To learn more about the action plan, reach out to our Public Education team to attend a training on Protecting Youth from Online Sexual Violence.

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Monday 9:00am 4:30pm
Tuesday 9:00am 9:00pm Wednesday 9:00am 9:00pm
Thursday 9:00am 4:30pm
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Saturday: 9:00am – 3:00pm

Christmas Holiday Closure

Saffron Centre will be closed beginning Saturday, December 23rd through Monday, January 1st and will reopen on January 2nd. Voicemails and emails will not be monitored during this time. For immediate support, call the Edmonton Distress line at 780-482-4357 or the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Centre 24-Hour Help line at 1-866-956-1099.

From all of us at Saffron Centre, we wish you a peaceful holiday season and many blessings in the New Year.