Teen takes nude selfies, ends up facing sex charges against herself

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A North Carolina teen got herself and her boyfriend into quite a pickle after nude photos she took for her boyfriend last fall landed her on the wrong side of the law.

Brianna Denson was sexting with her boyfriend, Cormega Zyon Copening, when she sent the nude selfies of herself. Denson was arrested in February after North Carolina law officials concluded that the Fayetteville teen committed two felony sexual assault crimes against herself.

Denson's warrant listed her both as the adult perpetrator and the minor victim in the arrest warrant. She was charged with two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor for the selfie and third-degree exploitation for having the photo in her possession. Her boyfriend was hit with five charges of sexual exploitation of a minor -- four of the charges are for possessing two sexually-explicit photos of himself and one count for having a copy of the picture of Denson.

Denson's actions aren't that unusual -- an increasing number of teens are sexting these days. A Drexel University poll found that 28% of teens have reported sharing sexually-explicit or nude photos of themselves.

SEE ALSO: Parents today worry more about sexting than smoking

Both teenagers face possible prison time and registration as sex offenders if found guilty. However, a July plea bargain from Denson is set to clear her criminal record by next year.

"It seems to me that you might be among the strictest of the laws that I've heard of," psychologist Linda Douin told The Fayette Observer.

"That's crazy. That seems like overkill," said the psychologist from Indiana University-Perdue University Fort Wayne.

But now the details behind girl's case is raising questions about the foggy legal issues of teen sexting.



And if you apply this standard to the entire United States? "You're talking about millions of kids being charged with child pornography," University of Texas psychologist Jeff Temple told The Fayette Observer.

Drouin, who studied sexting between young people, said the act is becoming so commonplace that she even likens it to the newest version "second base" for teens.



Although teens possessing and sharing these photos are illegal in North Carolina, sexual intercourse is not. The age of consent in North Carolina is 16-years-old and could be even lower if the two teens are less than four years apart.

Cumberland County Sherriff's Office officials said it's their job to enforce the laws as written. Lawyer Ronnie Mitchell confessed they uncover sexting cases "more frequently than we would like."

The agency investigates sexting incidents multiple times a month, usually focusing on incidents where a photo was shared within a group rather than just one person. Although Mitchell admitted he doesn't believe Denson's and Copening's photos were shared with anyone else, he said they were uncovered during an investigation where other explicit photos were being shared without the consent of the owners of the photos or those pictured.

In cases like Denson's and Copening's where the people charged were willing participants close in age, Mitchell said his office will often let them plead guilty to a misdemeanor instead, which is how Denson is settling. As for Copening, The Fayette Observer says his case is still pending.



Along with a one year probation period, the teenager must pay $200 in court costs, take a class on how to make good decision, not own a cell phone for the duration of her probation and do 30 hours of community service. If all goes well, Denson's misdemeanor charge will be dropped by July 2016 and will have a criminal record.

Temple and Douin said the teens shouldn't have even been charged in the first place. Before cameras were even invented, people would draw nude photos of themselves in love letters. The only difference between then and now is how easily these images spread because of technology, said Temple.

The psychologist believes "our resources should be more on education and not on punishment with this type of sexting."

Temple says that this education should focus on actual sexual behaviors between people, and most importantly, information on healthy relationships between adolescents.

About 20 states and territories in the United States have amended laws in order to account for teen sexting, according to a 2014 Drexel University study.

Sexting isn't just for teens. Watch the video below to find out more about this trend:
Study: Huge Amount of People Are Sexting


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