If you’re a parent who’s discovered that an adult has been ‘sexting’ your child, the most important thing you can do is take action and not ignore it.
‘Sexting’ is a modern term used to describe sexually-related text messages sent. Sexting usually includes sexual or nude photos and/or sexually-explicit comments. Sexting between two consenting adults is legal but when a minor or child is involved, child pornography and sexual exploitation laws become relevant.
In other words, if your child is receiving sexual pictures and messages from an adult, chances are that adult has committed a crime and you should absolutely treat the situation with the seriousness that it deserves.
The adult who is sending sexual pictures to your child has a motive and it’s likely going to be one of these three things:
- This adult may be a sexual predator who is trying to desensitize your child to sexual images and ideas as part of their ‘grooming’ process. Grooming is when a sexual predator creates an environment of trust between themselves and a child in order to transition their ‘relationship’ into something sexual. This, in turn, confuses the child and makes it more difficult for the child to tell somebody about the sexual abuse when it begins. The child becomes a compliant victim because they ‘allowed’ the abuse to happen.
- Sexually-explicit messages could also be a sign that your child has already been sexually abused. Sharing sexual or nude pictures is his way of reinforcing that the sexual behavior is ‘normal’ so that he can continue to confuse and take advantage of your child.
- Finally, sexual images and messages can also be used as a form of blackmail or threat. Child sexual predators have very few boundaries and are willing to go to extreme measures to continue their sexual abuse – which means making sure that their victims play along and stay quiet. The abuser will often blackmail their victims into continued sexual activity by threatening to tell on them or share pictures of them online. These kinds of threats continue to make your child a compliant victim because they would rather quietly comply with the sexual abuse then have the abuser share it with the world.
So what should you, as the parent, do about it?
First of all, from this point on, you need to save and record every piece of evidence you find. Save a copy of every picture, every message, and every email that is sent to your child from the predator. Track dates, times, etc. The better your record, the more we can do to help your child.
Second, you should report it to the police immediately. Again, sending sexually explicit pictures or messages to a minor is a crime and you should absolutely get the proper authorities involved. Not only will this help you to build a case against the predator but you may also be helping to prevent some other child from being victimized.
Third, if the predator knows your child through an organization or institution such as a school, youth sports league, church, troop counsel or some other organization, you should contact that organization immediately. They have a responsibility to maintain a safe environment for your child and should be notified right away that something is terribly wrong.
Finally, contact an experienced sexual abuse lawyer who can help you to understand your rights and guide you through the process of seeking justice and healing for your child.