NEWS

Send Naked Mole Rats, Not Nudes, Says Winnipeg Child Protection Group

06/01/2017 09:31 EDT | Updated 06/01/2017 09:35 EDT
WINNIPEG — The Canadian Centre for Child Protection has some advice for boys who are asked to send a nude photo to someone — send a meme of a naked mole rat instead.

The centre has launched a campaign featuring the bald, burrowing creature aimed at giving boys an easy way out of a potential sextortion situation, in which a youth shares sexual images of himself and is then extorted for money.

"It's exceeded our expectations. The feedback has been super-positive. Not only are we hearing from people in Canada, we've had groups out of Australia, New Zealand, come to us," said executive director Lianna McDonald, who noted The New Yorker did a story Thursday on the campaign.

naked mole rat

A Winnipeg child protection group is raising awareness of sextortion by trying to convince teen boys to share naked mole rats, not nude photos. (Photo: Canadian Centre for Child Protection)

The naked mole rat is an African rodent that is pink, hairless, and eight to 10 centimetres long.

While the image draws a risque comparison to something else, the Toronto ad firm that came up with the campaign says the naked mole rat was selected because it's cold-blooded, feels no pain and can be deprived of oxygen for up to 18 minutes.

"Sure it stood out, because it's something we're not familiar with, and something that maybe could get a smile from a 13-year-old boy. The whole goal here was to kind of de-shame it," said Dave Lafond of the agency No Fixed Address.

"It's a tough call because it's a such a serious issue."

"It was provocative."

Memes of the rat are available for download at www.dontgetsextorted.ca. There's also merchandise including hats, shirts, socks and cellphone covers, as well as tips to avoid falling prey to extortionists. It also offers resources for boys, educators and parents and a link to confidential online help.

McDonald said previous campaigns focused on educating girls about the dangers of sending naked pictures of themselves. But typical fear-based messages tend not to be effective with teenage boys, so the group opted for a humorous campaign instead.

"It was provocative," McDonald said.

naked mole rat

The Winnipeg-based centre, which operates Canada's tipline to report online crimes against children, said 65 boys reported sextortion incidents to the tipline in 2015-16. That's an 89 per cent increase from the previous two-year period of 2013-2014.

McDonald said it's hoped boys will learn from the campaign that if they face pressure to send naked photos or are being extorted, they're not alone.

"We started to receive calls from very distressed kids panicked over what to do, because the threats were, 'If you don't comply, I'm going to send this to all of your contacts,'" she said.

"They would think that this is only happening to me."

— By Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton