This tip sheet provides information for teens who have had their nude or sexual images (photos or videos) distributed without their consent.
In Canada, it is illegal (a criminal offence) for a person to knowingly publish, distribute, transmit, sell, make available or advertise an intimate image of a person where the person in that image did not give their consent. This means, if someone deliberately posts or sends a nude or sexual photo of you without your consent- they can be charged with a crime.
This offence is also called non-consensual distribution of intimate images or NCDII for short.
Some examples could be:
What if your abuser has not yet posted your intimate image but is threatening to do so if you don’t do what they want? If someone uses another person’s intimate image to coerce them to do something, they could be charged with “extortion”. Extortion is a crime and applies when someone tries to gain something using threats to make or to try to make another person do something. This means, even if your abuser has not posted or sent the photo to anyone but is threatening to do so if you don’t do something this could be charged as the criminal offence of extortion.
If you or someone you know has had a sexualized photo shared without consent, or someone is threatening to do so, the following steps may be helpful.
What does Canadian Criminal law say about an abuser publishing or sharing an intimate photo without your consent? Section 162.1 (1) of the Criminal Code states:
(1) Everyone who knowingly publishes, distributes, transmits, sells, makes available or advertises an intimate image of a person knowing that the person depicted in the image did not give their consent to that conduct, or being reckless as to whether or not that person gave their consent to that conduct, is guilty
(a) of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years; or
(b) of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
Let’s break down what this means:
“Publishes, distributes, transmits, sells, makes available, or advertises” is a broad way of saying that the abuser has posted, shared, or sent the image to others. An example of “publish” includes posting the image on social media or a website; “transmits” (to send from one person to another) includes where an image was texted, emailed or sent via a messaging app to someone else.
What is an intimate image? An intimate image is defined in s 162.1 (2) of the Criminal Code:
(2) In this section, intimate image means a visual recording of a person made by any means including a photographic, film or video recording,
(a) in which the person is nude, is exposing his or her genital organs or anal region or her breasts OR is engaged in explicit sexual activity;
(b) in respect of which, at the time of the recording, there were circumstances that gave rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy; and
(c) in respect of which the person depicted retains a reasonable expectation of privacy at the time the offence is committed.
Even if the person in the image consented to the video or photograph being taken, but did not consent to the image being distributed or shared, that means that consent for distribution has not been given.
“I do not consent to you sending/sharing the image/video of me [add a description such as including the date sent or any other identifying factors]. I want you to delete it and I do not give you permission to share it.”
Take a screenshot of that communication (see Step 2 for further information on preserving digital evidence). This can be helpful as it can be evidence that the abuser knew that you did not consent to the image being distributed.
It may be helpful for you to know an example or case law of what could happen in this situation.
In R v Haines-Matthews (2018) ABPC, an 18-year-old accused took nude photographs of a 17-year-old victim and recorded them doing sexual acts. While the victim initially consented to the accused taking nude photographs of her, she did not consent to him distributing the images. The accused then posted the video recording and the nude photographs on Facebook and Instagram. The accused was charged with a violation of section 162.1 (1) of the Criminal Code and sentenced to 5 months imprisonment followed by a 12-month probation period.
Your abuser may have still committed a criminal offence. Section 346 (1) of the Criminal Code states the following:
S 346 (1) Every one commits extortion who, without reasonable justification or excuse and with intent to obtain anything, by threats, accusations, menaces or violence induces or attempts to induce any person, whether or not he is the person threatened, accused or menaced or to whom violence is shown, to do anything or cause anything to be done.
One type of extortion is referred to as “sextortion”- this is where a person attempts to get sexual images or materials from the victim or to get the victim to perform a sexual activity by threatening to share sexually explicit images of her if she does not provide the offender with what he wants. Canadian courts have recognized “sextortion” as a criminal offence under s. 346.
Here are examples of sextortion in court cases:
In R v MacFarlane 2018 MBCA, the Manitoba Court of Appeal emphasized that “sextortion is a form of sexual violence even though it occurs through the medium of the internet” (para. 19).The accused who was 19 at the time secretly recorded the 19-year-old victim undressing and showering while she was in the bathroom. He then sent emails through several fake email accounts where he demanded that she provide him sexual photos of herself or he would publish the secretly recorded photos on the internet. He was charged with extortion, distribution of intimate images without consent, and voyeurism and was sentenced to a total of 15 months.
In R v Weeks 2018 BCPC, the 18-year-old offender with no previous criminal record, was charged with three counts of extortion for threatening to distribute intimate images of his victims in order to obtain more revealing images and videos of his victims. While the BC Provincial Court considered his “young age and future prospects” in determining the sentence, he was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for the extortion charges.
While you may be tempted to immediately delete or remove your sexually explicit image that was distributed without your consent, it is important to preserve and document any evidence of the image before doing so. Once the content is removed, you may not be able to prove who posted it or that it was even posted. The evidence you preserve can be given to the police or Crown counsel to prove the elements of the crime in court. It is important to ensure that you have documented the evidence and done so in a way that the court does not doubt the accuracy or authenticity of the document.
Note: you may not know if you want to go to the police and that’s ok, but it is always recommended that you preserve evidence as soon as possible to keep all remedies available. You may need the evidence for other reasons other than court for instance for school or for your family and friends to prove that you were not the one who distributed your image and that you are the victim of criminal conduct.
For more resources with instructions on how to consider evidence, click here.
For further information on reporting an intimate photo on Facebook, click here: https://www.facebook.com/help/1380418588640631
To report a Snapchat account:
To report a Story on Snapchat:
To report a Snap someone sent you:
If you have an account:
If you do not have an account:
If you need further assistance in removing an intimate image or video of yourself, you can contact:
Canadian Centre for Child Protection:
Phone: 1 (204) 560-2083
Toll-free: 1 (800) 532-9135
Online Form: https://www.cybertip.ca/en/report/report-form/
You have options. You can 1) report the criminal conduct to the police for them to investigate as a criminal case and/or 2) apply for a peace bond, which is a court order that requires the abuser to “keep the peace”, and if they violate the terms they can be charged with a crime of disobeying the order. Talking with a support worker or anti-violence worker or trusted adult is a good idea as they can help you consider all your options. There is a list of these resources at the end of this document.
Laying an Information
Normally, if you think a crime has been committed against you, you must report it to the police in order to start formal criminal law proceedings. However, sometimes the police may not think your case is serious enough to recommend charging. If this happens to you, you may still be able to move your case forward by “laying an information”. This is a process where you provide information about a crime to a court instead of the police. The process of “laying an information” is set out below.
A peace bond is a court order made by a judge to protect you from a person that you think might harm you. A peace bond can order a person to do the following:
The person identified in the peace bond is required to follow the conditions of the order once it is issued and served. If the person fails to follow any of the conditions, call the police immediately. The police may charge them with a criminal offence for breaching the conditions of the order and they may be arrested.
To get a peace bond, you call the police and ask for one or you can go to the court yourself and ask for one. You do not need a lawyer and there is no fee. When asking for a peace bond, request that a condition be added that prohibits the abuser from sharing or posting the intimate image they have of you.
This tip sheet on peace bonds has more information on how you can obtain a peace bond.
Additional Resources for collecting evidence of dating violence from BCSTH’s Preserving Digital Evidence Toolkit are below:
If you or someone you know thinks they are experiencing the NCDII or sextortion, talk with a trusted adult or seek help from one of the organizations listed below.
You are not alone and there are confidential safe support services available for you.
Spark Teen Digital Dating Violence Project
This document is a part of BCSTH’s Teen Digital Dating Violence Toolkit for Teens. This document, or any portion thereof, may be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever as long as acknowledgment to the BC Society of Transition Houses is included in the product.
This document was published March 2022.
We gratefully acknowledge Haadia Khalid, JD Candidate, Peter A. Allard School of Law, UBC, support from the Pro Bono
Students Canada Organization for the creation of this information sheet.