To the Editor:
It has become clear that our youth are completely unaware of the laws surrounding child pornography in Canada. Time after time, news stories are released showing high school students being charged for distributing or producing child pornography, often within the confines of consensual relationships. This fact is especially important, as it lends one to believe that the decision to create and share sexually explicit images is being made without recognizing the long-term consequences of doing so.
Without proper education and discussions, our teens and youth are at risk of breaking the law, experiencing trauma from an inability to provide informed consent, facing lengthy and upsetting court processes, being labeled and stigmatized, and experiencing consequences that can follow them for their whole lives.
To be clear, the Criminal Code of Canada states that child pornography is any visual (i.e. photos, videos, film), audio, or written material that shows a person under the age of 18, or is depicted as being under the age of 18, engaged in explicit sexual activity or showing their sexual organs or anal region for sexual purposes. Making, distributing, and possessing child pornography is an indictable offence. This includes acts such as teens sending “nudes” or “sexts” to their significant others. Possible consequences of breaking the laws surrounding child pornography include being added to the sex offender registry, and jail time.
Engaging in child pornography can have other long-lasting effects, such as trauma. Teens who are coerced by partners or friends into providing sexual content may not recognize the abusive, controlling, and unhealthy aspects of their relationship at the time, but later in their life may be haunted by the knowledge that the sexual content could still exist. Being coerced or manipulated into any sexual activity, including engaging in child pornography, is a form of sexual violence that is often overlooked. Additionally, many who have engaged in lengthy court processes have acknowledged the negative impact this can have on their holistic well-being.
I urge all parents, guardians, mentors, teachers, older siblings, coaches, etc. to ensure that your youth have accurate information on consent, safety in relationships and the laws around child pornography. If you are seeking support in having these conversations, I encourage you to reach out to your local women’s centre or sexual health centre. If you are having trouble accessing these resources, please do not hesitate to contact me, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 902-755-4647 at the Pictou County Women’s Resource and Sexual Assault Centre, for help.
Pictou County Women’s Resource and Sexual Assault Centre