The Dangers of Sexting with Criminal Attorney and Mom, Lisa Houle

Today we’re discussing an issue that, as a parent, is very concerning – sexting. Tweens and teenagers are sending out nude photos to each other without considering the consequences or long-term effects of their actions.

Meet my guest, a good friend and client, Lisa Houle. Lisa has been a criminal attorney for over twenty years and is currently focusing all of her efforts on bringing awareness to this topic.

As an attorney, Lisa has been on both sides of the defense. The first 15 years of her career, Lisa worked as LA County Deputy District attorney prosecuting sex crimes, violent crimes, and domestic violence. Now Lisa is a high-power defense attorney. One of the common problems Lisa has come across both as a prosecutor and an attorney is sexting.

“This is going on with young people all over the place. At every school, junior high, high school, colleges. It is very frightening, and it has become my mission to get the word out about this issue.”

A Serious Matter

Young kids may think sexting is fun. There are, however, detrimental consequences to this practice. In 2012 a fifteen-year-old girl in Vancouver committed suicide. Her name was Amanda Todd. She was just twelve years old when she exposed herself to a stranger on a webcam. The man on the other end of the webcam took a screenshot of topless Amanda and sent it to other men.

These men all started to blackmail Amanda, threatening to release her topless photo to the public if she did not send them more topless photos of herself. Eventually, they made good on their threat and released Amanda’s nude photo. Amanda did not share her shame and struggle with anyone for a very long time, and eventually, it drove her to end her young life.  

Amanda’s story is one of Lisa’s motivations to do the work she’s doing. As a mother herself, she wants to make sure her children and the children of others are safe. Currently, her children do not have cell phones.

“I understand the practical reasons for children to have phones – to communicate with their working parents, for instance. But I am a firm believer that if parents don’t have the conversation with their kids about the safe use of cellphones and what is and isn’t appropriate – there are going to be problems.”

Understanding The Problem

An open dialogue between parents and their children is critical. It is understandable that teenagers can be influenced by hormones and peer pressure but there are strict rules they need to be aware of.

“There needs to be an understanding that asking someone for a photograph of their private parts or sending someone a photograph of your private parts is not OK. Especially when we are talking about teenagers who have no understanding of the emotional expense when you do something like that. You can never get that back.”

Even when the sexting photos are not widely released on the internet, there are harmful outcomes that affect the teen’s life adversely. There have been many local stories where someone shares a private photo, and the recipient then shares it with their friends.

“Just being shared within someone’s private circle is devastating.”

The Solution

Lisa says the key take-a-way is to “Think before you send”. Think about how what you are about to do could go wrong. Teenagers may have a sense that they can trust whoever they are sending the photo to, but Lisa wants them to look further into the future.

“No matter how in love they may think they are now – things change. The long term consequences can be disastrous.”

Lisa’s plan is two-fold. First, there is sext education for parents. Parents need to understand that sexting is happening and it is real. Even if someone’s children are not sending or receiving these photos, they are exposed to it at school and will hear about it sooner or later. Parents should start this conversation with their children.

Lisa teaches parents how to have these conversations, how to identify what sexting is, and how to help children understand other people’s tragic stories. This is about preventing other tragic stories.

“As a criminal lawyer, I am aware of this epidemic and it is my duty and my job to help stop this’.

Lisa understands what teenagers are going through and travels to schools to speak to them. Her goal is not to alienate them, but to get students to take a step back and consider the consequences. To ask themselves, “will sending this body shot gain me the acknowledgment and acceptance I’m looking for?”

Lisa says that in reality, it might actually result in a criminal investigation. The police are taking these cases very seriously. Sexting between underage individuals is considered child pornography, and the police investigate this crime when they become aware of it. Prosecutors will then have to decide to whether the case requires criminal charges.

Even if it doesn’t come to criminal charges, the teenagers are often required to undergo a sexting education program, which includes meetings with counselors and police officers. There are serious long-lasting consequences to this practice.

“The emotional impact for everyone that’s involved – the suspect, the victim, the parents of both people. Can you imagine the shock of finding out that your child is under investigation? Or that your child is the one who sent the photo, and now it’s gone through the whole school? It’s a horrible thing to think about and I would not wish it for my worst enemy”.

Our Greatest Resource

Lisa is committed to providing education and information on sexting to both parents and teenagers. The two sections that can be found in her program are:

“Sext Education” – a program geared towards parents. It provides them with tools to understand sexting, and offers guidance on how to discuss it with their children.

“Before You Push Send” – a program for teens. It teaches teens to take a step back and think about the serious potential results of Sexting.

The more education and awareness people have about any issue – the better. I encourage you to send this to a family member, a parent, a teen. Let’s open some eyes to an issue that can seem innocent, yet can cause long-term, detrimental ramifications.

To learn more about the issue of Sexting and what to do about it, you can go to Lisa’s website

As always, remember – it all starts with you. Please share Lisa’s important message and let us know your thoughts and experiences regarding this topic in the comments.

Dream it. Live it. BE it.

Keri Murphy of Inspired Living





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Our blog features a series of interviews with some of the most visible and inspiring people world wide (ILTV) PLUS inspiration, business tips, and advice from Keri.