George's story

The real life story of a 15-year-old boy unwittingly caught up in sexting.

Transcript

Interviewer:

Can you just start off saying what actually happened to you?

George:

My friend was with a girl, and they had obviously, I don’t know, exchanged photos or videos and then, out of the blue, he obviously sent me some sort of screen recording, or something of her, and I didn't know what it was.  I didn't ask him to send it to me.  I opened it, and that was that; that was the end of it. I left it at that.  A few days later, the girl, who I was also close with at the time, informs me that he had been showing it around.  I sent it to her, and I said, "Is this the one? Is this it?" She said “yeah”, and I sort of tried to comfort her, and I said, "Oh, I'm really sorry about that."  I thought that was it, really.  Quite a few months later, my mum got a phone call.  They said that I needed to come up to the police station.

Interviewer:

Did they tell your mum and you why you had to come to the police station?

George:

For distributing child exploitation.

Interviewer:

When your friend originally sent you that message, and you opened it, and then you closed it, did you look at it again?  Did you go through, and have a look at it a couple of times, or did you send it to anyone else, or just back to the person who was actually in the video?

George:

No, no, I never...  I opened it up, and I completely forgot about it, until she told me that it was being spread around.  Then, I sent it to her, and her alone, just purely...  Not to take the...  As a joke or anything, I sent it to her and I was quite serious.  I was like, "Is this the one you're talking about?"

Interviewer:

Did you, at any point, know what that meant by having that on your phone, or having that - or sending it back to her?

George:

No, I was really quite unaware.  I sort of didn't understand.  I sort of knew that those sorts of photos were bad, in a sense that it's almost bad for your reputation, and really bad for yourself, but I didn't actually know that what I was doing, by sending it to her, and asking her if it’s her, was actually against the law.  I didn't realise.  I thought I was actually doing her a favour, but I was doing more harm than good.  I didn't really think that telling anyone would really help.  I guess it's a bit embarrassing to tell your parents, or anyone about that kind of stuff, as well.

Interviewer:

Then when you went to see the police, how was that process?  Who went in with you, and what happened?

George:

My mum went in there with me, and the police just asked me questions regarding the issue.  They were really nice, and really comforting, but there's only so much one can do. Obviously, I still felt really nervous, really scared, really uneasy; didn't know what to expect.  But, yeah, they did the best they could.

Interviewer:

When you found out that it was...  All of this police interview was because of what happened, that your friend had sent it to you, and you said that you didn't ask him to.  How did that make you feel, when you found out that you were at the police station for that?

George:

At the time, obviously, I was just more overwhelmed than anything else; sort of scared, and uneasy.  Later, I was just kind of really annoyed that I was in trouble for something that I really didn't intend at all.  I was kind of annoyed that I was in trouble for something, really, that I'm not really that involved with.

Interviewer:

Could the police tell that you’d not distributed it any further but you’d sent the message back to her asking is this it?

George:

Yeah, they did – they determined there wasn’t any malice in my actions. And that I was sort of just trying to help. Although, trying to help or not, still unfortunately how I broke the law.

Interviewer:

So what ended up happening with you, with the police? Were you charged? Did you get a caution? What happened?

George:

I got a… I can’t remember what it’s called, it’s like a warning and they sort of read you the rules. Just for future reference.

Interviewer:

What would you have done differently when that boy sent you that?

George:

As embarrassing as it would have been, I probably would have told someone. Hard as it would've been, I guess it would have been the right thing to do, and then he would have hopefully gotten in trouble before it would have been distributed further.

Interviewer:

What do you think people in either, say in the government, should do now to help kids understand how quickly they can get into trouble, even when they don’t mean to, with this stuff?

George:

Well I think probably the best solution is to have a bit more education about it. Possibly maybe coming out to schools, information sessions, just sort of outlining the law and what’s actually a breach of the law. Making sure people understand that whether you mean well or not, still the law’s the law. Making sure parents are open to… try and push past the initial anger if their kid’s involved in it and just look at how they can move past it without causing further pain for whoever’s involved.

Interviewer:

What’s a way we can get information out about it?

George:

Go out to schools. Get young people out to schools, possibly even people that may have even been through it and share their experiences. Because I for one know that when you hear about these things you think, “that’ll never happen to me, they’ll never find out” or whatever the case is. But if you really hear real stories, and then what’s happened to those people, it can really put things into perspective.

Interviewer:

What about parents?  What do you think parents need to do to help their kids better?

George:

I would say just making sure that they're open to their kids.  Open to...  rather than if your kid tells you something about something bad that's happened on the internet, instead of going, "Oh, why'd you do that," or, "What's all this about then?" First of all, listening, and then understanding, and just being, just being there to listen, and then knowing what to do; what's the next step after that.