First of all, I’m sorry. No one deserves to experience a privacy violation.
If you send a private image to someone you thought you could trust and that person violates your trust, they are in the wrong, not you. That person did something to you that they likely knew was malicious and harmful.
So far the research indicates that among teens, around 10% of private images are distributed without permission. And this is even more common if the image was initially shared under pressure or coercion.
Getting images removed
- If your image is on a website, and you created that image, you can try to make a copyright complaint. Look into filing a DMCA takedown notice.
- Try making a request to remove information from Google.
- Follow these takedown guides for popular social media sites.
- Visit Without My Consent and the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative for lots more resources.
Laws and lawyers
The law has not caught up to technology yet, but some courts understand that people can and do have a reasonable expectation of privacy in digital media. Even if you share private content with someone, that does not give them the right (certainly ethically and in some cases legally), to share that content with anyone else.
- If you are under 18: In the US and many other countries, unfortunately if this type of violation is reported to law enforcement, it’s possible that you could be charged for producing the image under a sexting misdemeanor law (if it exists in your state) or even child pornography (but this is much less likely). This is completely unfair but it’s the way the laws work right now.
- You can consider talking to a lawyer (list of specialists here) to examine your options — some US states and countries have laws against “revenge porn.” There are cases of people who have been successful with “emotional distress” claims and with “publication of private facts” lawsuits.
- While things can technically live forever online, in a couple years whatever’s showing up now will probably be buried somewhere in the middle of the google results for your name. In other words, if your image is being passed around among your peers, the situation is usually temporary. While it can certainly feel terrible right now, this will probably fade away in time.
- If people are shaming you for sexting, they are wrong. Like any sexual activity, sexting is risky, but that doesn’t make it wrong, deviant, or shameful. In fact, around 30% of teenagers are sexting, and it’s even more common among young adults. Taking a risk doesn’t make you a bad person. But violating someone’s privacy or shaming the victim of a privacy violation is absolutely wrong.
- If you can, collaborate with sympathetic people to find ways to resist slut-shaming the sexual double standard that says male sexuality is expected and female sexuality is unacceptable. Check out “Why You Should Stop Saying ‘Slut’ and What to Say Instead.“