The ready availability of mobile communication technologies and the increase in the use of the internet has seen the development of what is known as ‘sexting’. ‘Sexting can be understood as the sending or posting of sexually suggestive text messages and images, including nude or semi-nude photographs, via mobiles or over the Internet’ (Cooper et al., 2016, p. 706). ‘Sexting’ becomes problematic and falls into the cybercrime category when the images are shared without the victim’s knowledge. This might be through ‘hacking’, where the images are stolen from the legitimate recipient, or it could be through the intended recipient sharing them (either with other acquaintances or in online forums etc.) without the consent of the sender. Senders might be unaware about the possible distribution of their images, or a previously trusted receiver may turn out to not merit such trust (such as an ex-partner who shares images – sometimes known as ‘revenge pornography’). Research has found that women usually only send sexual images in the context of a relationship where there is trust (Samimi and Alderson, 2014), and therefore at the time the images are sent, there is little reason for the sender to think that they will be passed on without consent.
However, the harm is constant and amplified due to the permanency of the images stored on the internet. Even if the original images/videos are removed, copies could have been made and could circulate indefinitely (Langos, 2015). As a result, the long-term impact of such crime could be far more damaging than originally intended, permanently discrediting the victim’s reputation on a personal and professional level.