No to Nudes

In my family, including my extended family, we are very close.  I spend more time with my younger cousins every week than I do with my friends, and even sometimes, my roommate.  So it definitely came as a HUGE shock to me today, when my 14-year-old cousin disclosed to me that a boy that she had a crush on and was friendly with for years, randomly and out of the blue, snapped her on Snapchat asking her to send him nudes.

I am so grateful and so incredibly lucky that she has three, strong-willed and amazing older female cousin’s that tell her constantly how amazing she is, and that she determined that she has too high of self-respect to EVER send those out.  Especially because they have never had any relationship before.  But she couldn’t figure out why, even though she didn’t do it, she felt so uncomfortable around him, and why she spent that entire night “shaking on the inside”.

We were sitting in my car, after a study day at the library, following two very chaotic family weeks.  We had been studying for a few hours before-hand, and I could tell there was a lot on her mind, but I didn’t know what.

I mean, honestly, there were a myriad of things that she could be dealing with.  The recent loss in her family, our cousin getting married yesterday, just starting high school and kind of feeling lost in the crowd, and so on and so forth.  So, when we were in the car, and she told me she wanted to tell me something, I was bracing myself for a grief pep-talk, and not at all what I ended up working with her on.  Obviously (and honestly), I’m honored that she confided in me and felt comfortable enough to bring this up to me, but I felt totally at a loss for what to say to her.  I didn’t know if I should find the guy and beat the ever-loving crap out of him, or pep-talk her like I would everyone else.  But for me, (And not to make this about me…) it was more personal.

I felt offended, and sad, and angry for her.  And she, although only 14, was incredible at expressing what she was feeling.

But how do you differentiate between speaking to your family or a loved one, and speaking to a stranger?

I mean, I always empathize, whether I know you or not.  But for me, this was probably the hardest sexual assault case I’ve ever dealt with, aside from my own.

How do you look at this child, this teenager, that emulates only innocence and silliness, and try to explain to her that she feels violated and unsafe because she was sexually assaulted?

The answer is, you don’t, and I didn’t.  But still, having to validate the feelings she expressed broke my heart.

We sat in my car, parked in her driveway for about 45 minutes, while she talked herself in circles, from disclosing what happened, and asking for advice, then, justifying his actions and defending that he’s a good person, and then reversing that thought process, and then talking about what her best friend told her about it.  From what I understand, unprompted, he snap-chatted her at night, opening the conversation with, “Will you send me nudes?” To which she was incredibly confused, and replied, “What?”.  He obviously become embarrassed, knowing full well that what he did was NOT okay.

He immediately retracted what he said and the rest of the conversation went as follows:

Him: “You don’t get it… nevermind.”
Her: “Ew. WTF! No!”
Him: “Why?”
Her: “Because I don’t do that.”
Him: “Will you do it in a few months?”
Her: “No.”

Then, he deleted her, blocked her on all social media outlets, and hasn’t talked to her- which is a point of contention for her.  One of her biggest concerns right now is, she doesn’t want it to be awkward.

She asked me over and over again what she should do.

Should she say something to him?

She didn’t want him to think it was okay, but she still had to deal with him in 4 classes this year, and throughout the next 3 years of high school.

Should she talk to a guidance counselor about it?  I mean, she felt so uneasy.  She hates being in the same room as him, and her skin crawls when she sees him, which she does all day.  So what does she do? Afraid of being retaliated against, made fun of, labelled, not believed, bullied, etc., she prefers to stay quiet.  I advised that maybe she wait a while, until she’s comfortable, and maybe say something about how inappropriate it is for him to ask for things like that.  But even that, I don’t know if it was the right thing to say.

The world we live in is unbelievable, especially for present-day teenagers.  I remember when I was in high school, 10 years ago.  Things were so different.  I mean, we had the internet, and people asked me for nude pics all the time via text, and AIM.  But now, there are a million apps that can be used and abused.  There was an article about a predator trying to get pictures from a girl on musical.ly — where kids make music videos.  Snap chat is the worst though.  I downloaded it two times and each time, deleted it because of the amount of times people sent me messages asking for pictures, or I received unprompted pictures.

WHY?  Why is that okay?

My cousin didn’t even have time to process this boys request before the text literally disappeared. And she has no proof to backup her claim.

What can we do to keep kids and teenagers safe? Safe from the pressure.  Safe from the sexual assaults and harassment online. I never want to hear anything like this again.  Young people feeling unsafe at school and in their homes because other kids are abusive.

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