Everyone is entitled to personal integrity – even online

Publication date 31.1.2023 10.00
News item

Having fun, hanging out with friends, getting to know new people, and various relationships are a natural part of young age. Likewise, practicing independent life management and social skills, and setting one’s own personal limits are integral to young age. Other people’s integrity must be respected and everyone has the right to keep their personal space unviolated.

The YouTube video published by the police serves to remind that it is not permitted to share anyone’s nude pictures.

Sharing of pictures, nudes as well, is common among young people. Young people do not necessarily realize that sharing another young person’s nude picture with friends without permission may constitute a criminal offense. According to the Criminal Code amendment that entered into force in early 2023, such an act fulfills the essential elements of the criminal offense of illegal spreading of a sexual image. 

Sharing a picture may have far-reaching consequences

Criminal liability becomes applicable at the age of 15, but even under the age of 15, young people are liable to compensate damage. 

“What is important is not whether the act constitutes a criminal offense, but that the act causes considerable damage and suffering for the victim and it is never ‘just a harmless prank’. It is almost always hard and distressing for the young person to see the image spreading uncontrollably. All pictures shared online will remain there and they can spread even to a wide audience in the blink of an eye,” says Superintendent Miia Lehtinen of the National Police Board and continues: 

“By posting this video, the police want to emphasize the fact that the victim must never be left to manage on their own, and if a young person’s nude image is spread, it is important to report this to the police to investigate the matter and to get help and support to the victim.” 

The video is part of the Young people and crime website produced by the Ministry of the Interior and the police. The website provides useful information about crime for children and young people and gives answers to many questions, including how to recognize a situation in which a criminal offense has been committed, where to turn for help if I have witnessed a crime or been subjected to crime, and is it difficult to submit a crime report?

Never be alone! 

Falling victim to a crime is never the victim’s own fault. Sometimes it can be difficult to recognize a criminal offense. Anyone can fall victim to a crime and such situations cannot always be prevented. You should always seek help if you suspect that a crime has been committed. 

“You don’t need to know what type of crime may be in question. It is enough if you feel that something wrong has happened. You should seek help also if you suspect that a friend has fallen victim to a crime or you have witnessed a crime taking place,” says Maatu Arkio-Lampinen from Victim Support Finland. 

It can be easier to talk to a reliable adult if possible criminal offenses have been discussed with the child or young person before, and they know what to do if they fall victim to a crime. It is good to remind children and young people regularly of that they can always talk about anything, even difficult things, however hard the situation may seem. 

Finnish Hotline Nettivihje prevents sexual abuse of children

The Finnish Hotline Nettivihje service of Save the Children Finland has been active for 20 years in combating and preventing sexual abuse of children, promoting early intervention in sex crimes targeting children and expediting the removal of online material witnessing sexual abuse of children. Children and adults alike can report to the Hotline any online activity or picture material involving sexual abuse of children, encountered or seen on the web. In 2022, the Hotline service received ten times more reports than in previous years.

“The majority of sex offences targeting children are not reported to the authorities, for example because the threshold to report a suspected offence or illegal material to the authorities is high. The low-threshold Hotline Nettivihje enables the authorities to be informed even about situations in which the reporting person is not willing to contact the police directly. This way, an increasing number of sex offenses targeting children are investigated and material showing sexual abuse of children can be efficiently removed from the web,” says Pauliina Sillfors, Advisor at the Finnish Hotline Nettivihje.

Support of nearest and dearest important

A child or young person who has fallen victim to a crime needs support from their nearest and dearest. It is essential that the victim is not left alone but gets the support they need in the situation. When a child or young person tells their guardian or another adult about their experience, the following should be emphasized to them:

  • Thank them for being brave and telling you about the incident.
  • Remind them that they can always talk about anything, even the most difficult things.
  • Give them time to talk and keep calm.
  • Listen and give room for discussion.
  • Never make them feel guilty, doubt them or belittle them.
  • Take the account seriously.
  • It is normal to react to an unusual situation. Such reactions may include insomnia, nightmares, anxiety and difficulty concentrating. It is also normal if the young person does not react strongly to the situation.
  • You must provide the safe presence of an adult.
  • Make sure that everyday life continues, as normally as possible, and take care of basic needs, such as meals and sleep.
  • Give hope in coping with the situation.
  • File a crime report of the incident. Before submitting the report, discuss with the child in advance why it is important to file a crime report and talk about what happens next. If you are concerned about the child’s well-being, you can contact the local urgent and emergency care.
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