EDITOR’S NOTE: We asked Wess Winn, community services officer and crime prevention coordinator with the Waxahachie Police Department to write a weekly column in an effort to answer many of the law enforcement-related questions posed by our readers. Here’s this week’s column:
I have wanted to write this article for some time and am finally getting around to it because of the urging of the detectives here at the station wanting to get information out to the community on “sexting.”
Most people are somewhat familiar with the laws regarding sexual abuse of a child and how the ages can become a factor. If not, I will give you the Reader’s Digest version. Let’s say you have a 16 and a 19 year old (gender does not matter) in a consensual sexual relationship. In the eyes of the law this is wrong. Even though that is considered illegal, there is what we call a defense to prosecution (fancy way of saying legitimate reason) that because they were so close in age (Romeo and Juliet) that the prosecution will possibly not take the case and for good reason. Make that 19 year old 20 and then it area gets even more grey.
All that said, when you get into sexting (sending nude pictures of one’s self) you open up a whole new can of worms.
First of all if that 19 year old receives a picture from the 16 year old and shows one friend, you might possibly have a case of child pornography now. In this instance it does not matter if the two people are both 16 and under. There is not much black and white when it comes to child porn, as long as you can prove the age of the victim.
Second, and and the most important is that you give someone control over you. Now that they have that picture they can ask for more or threaten to release it to their friends.
You all realize how fast social media works now and pictures and rumors will spread like wildfire. This goes for relationships (which tend to end for teenagers) and for those folks you meet on line. Don’t be fooled because it will come back to haunt you.
This is a very slippery subject and I just kind of hit the high points to help paint a picture of what can happen when you “sext.”
Wess Winn holds a master peace officer certification. If you have a Police Beat question for Officer Wess Winn, he may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 469-309-4410. Look for your questions to be answered here in the Waxahachie Daily Light every Sunday or listen to officer Winn’s show on KBEC Radio AM 1390 at 9 a.m. every Monday.