Girls as young as 13 felt pressured to send intimate photos and were unaware they were being shared among a group of boys, a Nova Scotia court has been told.
Six Bridgewater, N.S., boys have admitted distributing intimate images of at least 20 girls between the ages of 13 and 17.
Documents submitted in Bridgewater provincial court Tuesday said one 13-year-old girl was repeatedly asked by one accused for sexual photos over several days and felt pressured to send them.
“She felt he would not let her change the subject. She said no several times. The next day at school (the boy) and his friends were clustered near her locker and gave her the impression that they were talking about her. She felt pressured,” the agreed statement of facts said.
The girl ended up sending four or five photos, but did not give permission to distribute them and was told they would not be saved, the statement said.
“She felt horrible when she sent them, but felt that if she did not he would spread some rumour about her at school or confront her about it. She felt guilty and awful after it.”
At the time the charges were laid in July 2016, four of the accused were 15 years old, and the other two were 18. All were under 18 when the offences were committed, and their identities are protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The victim’s identities are also protected.
All were students in Bridgewater.
The document said two Dropbox accounts were created for the purpose of sharing intimate images of girls in various states of undress, including bare breasts and fully nude.
Most photos were sent through an app called Snapchat – in which images disappear after 10 seconds – but the boys circumvented the time limit by using other phones to take a photo of the photo.
The statement said a 14-year-old girl sent photos to a boy she had known since they were young children. She felt she “could trust him that no one would find out.”
“They would talk in class. He would compliment her looks and tell her that he likes her. She found him ‘sweet.’ He would also talk about how they could trust each other and then ask her for photos, including full nudes,” the statement said.
“He would ask for photos of certain body parts including breasts or vaginal area. He asked her repeatedly and explained that it was ‘no big deal’.”
Another girl was 13 years old when she sent an intimate photo of herself to one accused.
WATCH: Police investigate intimate images shared by Bridgewater, N.S. students
“She felt pressured into sending it. He kept asking for ‘inappropriate’ photos of herself. She would repeatedly tell him she would not, but when she learned that other friends of hers were sending photos, including one friend… who was believed to have sent nude photos, (the girl) eventually gave in to the requests,” the statement said.
“After sending the photo she begged him not to send the photo. She came to believe shortly after sending it that it was a mistake and regretted it. Later when she heard rumours of him keeping it, she asked him to delete it.”
In another instance, a girl was 14 or 15 years old when one of the accused started texting her, asking for intimate photos.
“She was concerned that if she did not send photos he would not like her. She found him ‘pushy’,” the document said. “Finally one time she decided to send him a picture. She believed that she could trust him to keep the photo private.”
One 14-year-old girl sent nude photos to three boys, the document said: “She has no idea of the total number of photos she shared.”
In some cases, boys sent unsolicited intimate images of themselves to girls.
The agreed statement of facts said some of the accused played sports together and had a private Facebook group. The subject of exchanging intimate photos of girls came up, and a Dropbox account was created to facilitate the sharing of the photos.
Approximately 60 photos of 20 girls were stored in this Dropbox account, which was accessed by a single username and password. No fewer than nine devices logged on to the account.
A second Dropbox account was created because one of the accused was not able to access the first one. A log shows files were uploaded to the account 46 times and that seven girls were depicted, and no fewer than seven devices logged on to the account, the statement said. Photos of all but one girl also appeared in the first Dropbox account.
The first Dropbox account was deleted around April 12, 2015, “once it became clear to them that others knew about the Dropbox account including (school) officials and female students,” the statement said. The second account was removed around April 17, 2015.
“Everyone who uploaded photos knew or were wilfully blind to the fact that the subjects were not consenting to their distribution,” the document said.
The boys will be sentenced July 31.
The case is one of the first in Canada involving legislation introduced in late 2013 after the death of Nova Scotia teen Rehtaeh Parsons, which captured national attention amid a heated public debate over cyberbullying.
The 17-year-old attempted suicide and was taken off life support after a digital photo — of what her family says was a sexual assault — was circulated among students at her school in Cole Harbour, N.S.
The intimate images bill became law in March 2015.