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Bedfordshire academic calls for more guidance for schools around ‘sexting’


Tue 25th September, 2018

A University of Bedfordshire expert has called for schools to have more robust guidance on how to respond to abuse through sexual image sharing.

Dr Jenny Lloyd from the University’s International Centre: Researching child sexual exploitation, violence and trafficking, published research looking at how the difference between consensual and non-consensual sharing can sometimes be conflated.

The study, published in Gender and Education, also identified that when the advice to pupils was not to sext in the first place, it was likely that anyone becoming a victim of non-consensual sharing would blame themselves.

Dr Lloyd said: “The main thing that has come out of this is that while there is guidance, the advice focuses on prevention of image sharing - consensual or otherwise. There is a whole victim blaming narrative, and they may not disclose what has happened to a teacher, and the students at school don't necessarily support that person. I just don’t think enough schools are having conversations about the abusive and coercive sharing of images.”

Dr Lloyd based her findings on data from focus groups with young people, school staff and multi-agency workers, as well as observations, case reviews and reviews of policies and procedures.

The research was carried out across four local authorities and included seven different schools (16-18 provision, pupil referral units for those excluded, further education colleges, faith schools, sixth forms, and special educational provisions) and the multi-agency partnership.

The research found that abuse through image sharing happened in all schools visited and typically involved a girl’s image being shared on social media without her consent, either through someone directly sharing the image with their friends, social media “followers” or anonymously.

One of the methods identified was the use of “bait out” pages, usually on Instagram, where people are invited to send in nude images they want shared.

Speaking anonymously at a focus group, one respondent said the point of the pages was ‘humiliation.’ Identified only as Joe, he said: “It’s almost worse than beating someone up. You can heal from a fight but a photo is always there. It says how to find her because they tag them.”

But the anonymous nature of these posts means teachers may not be able to gather evidence of who shared the image.

“All students and teachers appeared resigned to the fact that image sharing (both consensual and non-consensual) was inevitable and there was very little schools could do to prevent this,” said Dr Lloyd. “Firstly, because students felt schools do not have jurisdiction to penalise students for things outside school and secondly, because sanctions, such as suspension, were ineffective.”

Bedfordshire University

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