Published: 06:00, 22 April 2020
A Kent teenager has spoken out about how sending intimate pictures to her boyfriend almost ruined her life.
The issue has been brought to the public’s attention as a storyline in Coronation Street currently involves teenager Asha Alahan going through a similar experience.
Eleanor was 14 when the boy she’d been in a relationship with for 10 months asked her to share explicit photos of herself with him over Snapchat.
She agreed, thinking the images would be secure because of the social media app’s ‘disappearing photos’ function – where a picture is deleted after a certain number of seconds.
Eleanor said: "I believed I was safe sending them on Snapchat because you get notified if the other person screenshots them, and he didn’t so I thought that was fine."
But she was unaware her boyfriend had downloaded a separate app, which allowed him to save the picture without her knowing.
Eleanor says when they broke up a few months later, he started to turn her friends against her and created a “horrible atmosphere” at school.
It was such a difficult time, her hair started falling out and she was diagnosed with stress and anxiety.
The bullying was so bad, her parents moved her to a different school and things started to turn around - until she realised the truth about what had happened.
Eleanor said: "Two weeks into being at my new school and being happy and moving on, I found out that he had shared the images amongst people at school. I was really shocked because I didn’t know that he had them.
"At first it was really embarrassing, but the more I look back on it it’s just really horrible. These are really personal and intimate and a moment that should have been just between me and my boyfriend, and now they’ve been shared with I don’t know how many people."
Eleanor spent two months desperately trying to ignore the problem and hoping it would go away.
But instead it got worse.
She said: "I ended up getting blackmailed by strangers online saying that if I didn’t send them more pictures of myself they were going to expose me. And this was all before I told my parents."
She phoned Childline for advice, and was told to report it to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command (CEOP).
The organisation contacted the school to inform Eleanor's teachers of what was going on, and they in turn contacted the 14-year-old’s parents and advised them to call the police.
Eleanor said: "I made a statement and three boys were arrested and their phones were seized for evidence.
"That was in July 2017, and in March 2019 we were told they weren’t able to make any charges because they couldn’t prove that I hadn’t send the images to all of the boys who had the images of me, and because the pictures of myself were erotic but not explicit.
"It was two years of my life of just worrying and stressing about what’s going to happen for absolutely nothing."
"It’s just really annoying because you’re told if this happens go to the police, and we did, but they just didn’t have the resources or the time to actually help me as much as they should have done.
"That was honestly one of the worst parts. You can almost say it was worthwhile if we’d got a result at the end, but it definitely wasn’t. It was two years of my life of just worrying and stressing about what’s going to happen for absolutely nothing.
"As my mum has said before, the day we got the phone call to say ‘I’m really sorry there’s nothing more we can do”, the three boys got a phone call saying ‘I’ve got some good news’. It just puts it all into perspective that really I’m the one that came out of the whole situation a lot worse than they did.
"During that time I was in and out of counselling and worked through a lot of the problems that I’d had to deal with because of it.
"It’s taken me a long time to trust people again and have some self-confidence back but I’m definitely coming out the other side."
Eleanor is now 18 and is speaking out to raise awareness and try to prevent the same thing from happening to someone else.
She is hoping to discourage anyone who might be thinking of doing what her boyfriend did.
She said: "If this person trusts you enough to send intimate pictures of themselves, you really need to look at what your intentions are. If you’re just going to hurt them that’s a really horrible thing to do. You should really put yourself in their shoes and think how that would feel if someone else did that to you.
"Also, it is an offence and if you are caught doing it – although it didn’t really work out in my case – they may end up getting a prosecution. It’s not just their life that can be ruined it could be yours as well."
If you need support or advice about an issue like this, you can visit Childline’s website by clicking here.