These stories of leaked nudes at school show just how shameful our reaction was
‘She was suspended because teachers said they couldn’t look her in the eye’
We all know a story of when someone at school had explicit photos of them sent around. But think back to it closely, and try to remember how the story was dealt with. Was it brushed under the carpet? Did the person who took them get suspended? Were they treated awfully and made to feel like they were the bad person in the situation? How come you remember the girl this happened to but never the person who sent the photo around? That’s because it’s taken us this long to realise that the way institutions deal with victims of revenge porn is wrong – and it’s about time it got called out.
I asked girls to share with me their stories of when nudes got sent around schools and colleges, and the patterns are impossible to deny. It was always the victim who was punished, with some even being criminalised, suspended from school and called “dirty” and “disgusting”. Absolutely nothing happened to the person who clicked send to pass the pictures down a group chat or onto other people – without the original person’s permission.
Names have been changed to protect identities.
‘The teachers said they couldn’t look her in the eye’
Whilst I was at school, a girl in the year below me had naked pictures of her sent all around the school – she would have been about 13 or 14. After the school “investigated” it was agreed that the girl was to be suspended from school for a couple of weeks. I was talking to one of my teachers about it afterwards, and she told me that the teachers had mutually agreed that it would be “awkward” for them to have to teach her and they “couldn’t look her in the eye” because they had seen the photos themselves. Nothing happened to whoever it was who sent the picture around. – Mollie, 24.
‘After my nudes were leaked I was made to sign an NDA and a petition was started by my classmates to get me kicked out of school’
I was blackmailed into sending nude pictures to a boy whilst I was at school. He had sent me one of my GCSE papers and said if I didn’t send him naked pictures then he would report me for cheating. So I did. The pictures ending up going around school, so I went to the headteacher to explain everything. They didn’t believe me and had reported the incident to the police. The school told me I was a “dirty, horrible, disgusting person” and what I had done was “awful”. It was like they had no awareness that what had happened to me was illegal. It wasn’t until I reached the police station that I was treated with any respect and reminded that I had actually been blackmailed.
But the school were still awful. I was allowed to come back and sit my exams, along as I signed an NDA to not discuss what had happened. The story had been spun out of control at school, with rumours being spread that I’d made a sex tape with an examiner – all this was happening to me whilst the boy was out living his life as normal. Fellow classmates bullied me and there was a petition to have me leave the school. My school told me I should be “grateful” I hadn’t been suspended or expelled. Teachers refused to have me in their classes – two female and one male teacher made formal complaints about me and wouldn’t teach me. They said they “didn’t want to be alone with me”. I felt like a sexual predator. – Maeve, 21.
‘She was basically tormented’
In secondary school a girl I knew had a photo of her in the bath sent around the school. She had sent it to a boy, who she knew and was also a pupil, and he sent it to his friends and then it was everywhere. In the photo, a rubber duck was in the background and whilst the school looked into the case people would quack at her in the playground and shout at her. She was basically tormented about it. She ended up being suspended, and nothing happened to the boy. The entirety of the school’s investigation was to find out who it was in the photo and deal with them (she had cropped her head out of the picture) there was nothing said about trying to find out who it was that had forwarded the picture on. – Kelsey, 19.
‘The boys got 0 punishment whilst the girls were crucified’
When I was at school a group of girls went on Chat Roulette and ended up being paired with some boys from the neighbouring school. The girls were dancing with no tops on and the boys had taken screenshots and broadcast them on BBM. One of the boys’ parents found out and rang our school. The four girls involved were suspended – the one with no clothes on got a three week suspension and the others got four days. Then the rest of the school were called into this huge PSHE day about how this was a problem. The boys got 0 punishment for being on Chat Roulette and sending the pictures, whereas the girls were crucified. Nobody said anything about the punishment, it was just accepted. We were at a Catholic school, and the word “disgrace” was thrown around about it a lot – but always aimed at the girls. – Emma, 20.
‘It was your own fault for taking them’
We had an assembly at school about how taking nudes was a criminal offence because we were underage, and that if they got leaked it was basically your own fault for taking them. Pretty sure the assembly was actually from a local police officer, in response to a girl having her nudes leaked. – Olivia, 22.
‘They thought an assembly would solve it’
When we were in sixth form a girl’s pictures got sent around and the school responded by holding a mandatory assembly for all of Year 12 and 13 to discuss the taking and sending of nude photos and how bad it is, and the legal repercussions. But everyone knew who this was about, and now looking back it just seems so weird that they thought an assembly would solve it when it just caused more chatter. – Georgina, 20.
‘I feel like the aim of the school’s response was to scare us’
I remember it happened to girls twice at my school, once when I was in Year 7, so we weren’t invited to the assembly because we were too young, and then again a year later when i was in Year 8. The school just played us a video, but I feel like it didn’t really inform us about anything? It was about a girl who sent nudes to a guy on the internet and then he leaked them and then it showed her friends and everyone at her school seeing it and then police officers turned up at her home. It was actually quite scary, and made me think that if I ever sent nudes then the police would turn up at my house. I feel like the aim of the school’s response was to scare us into not doing it ourselves. – Serena, 19.
‘The boys at our school didn’t even have to come to the assemblies’
I never understood why they thought assemblies would fix anything. They literally gave us no useful information and we had some video which showed us a girl being shamed and bullied for sending nudes. Nothing about the impact on the guys or the people who spread it. And the boys at our school didn’t even have to go to the assemblies and they didn’t have anything different in their place. – Lucie, 25.
The Tab’s Do Better campaign is putting a focus on the rising student sexual assault problem. Universities need to do more to support students and the culture around sexual assault needs to change.
If you’ve got a story you’d like to share with us – whether it’s about lack of support from uni, problematic sports socials, assault in lockdown or anything you think needs to be heard, get in touch in confidence by emailing [email protected]
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Featured image (before edits) via Unsplash.