A Miramonte High student journalist’s tenacity recently led police to shut down a Dropbox website full of photos of nude and scantily clad Lamorinda girls and young women.
Sofia Ruiz, the 15-year-old sophomore who in January wrote an explosive opinion piece in The Mirador about boys uploading photos to the site, explained to me Friday why she wrote the story, called “Lamorinda Nudes Dropbox Must Come Down.”
“It was pretty common knowledge around school,” she said. “Everyone just kind of talked about it, but no one really addressed it as an issue.”
Sofia, on the other hand, wanted to address it head-on.
“I didn’t like the idea of it,” she said. “When I first heard about it, I thought it couldn’t be true. But everyone was talking about it, and it was (true).”
This realization unleashed a strong reaction in Sofia.
“It’s just not fair and not OK,” she said. “And it highlights a bigger problem in society — that girls are being treated like objects — and that’s not fair at all. Something has to change. And if I can do anything to help that, I’d like to.”
I pointed out that she already has done something to change that.
“I hope so,” she said. “From your article, I understand that Moraga police got it shut down. More than anything, I just hope that this issue sparks a conversation among adults and students and they really talk about this because it’s not just happening here; it’s happening all over.”
Ultimately, Sofia said teenagers need to change the way they feel about the “objectification of girls.”
“You need to treat women and girls with the respect they deserve, and that’s not what’s happening,” she said. “I think it’s more of a societal question.”
Sofia said she wasn’t sure whether the girls who provided nude photos of themselves to boys were thinking about the effect that could have on boys’ attitudes toward women.
“But I definitely think it’s an overarching theme in everyone’s life — that boys think it’s OK to do this to girls, and when it happens to girls no one really wants to go out of their way to change it,” she said. “It’s like that’s just the way it is.”
In her opinion piece, Sofia said boys who uploaded the photos were the “main problem.”
“Boys must respect girls that trust them enough to send intimate photos,” she wrote. “When a guy uploads a picture a girl has sent him, he is breaking the trust she placed in him and shows a lack of empathy and morals. If someone trusts you, respect that.”
Her story urged those who created the site to take it down but also suggested that law enforcement should intervene to remedy the problem.
Adults may have not known about the site, she said Friday, because of a “disconnect between students and adults.”
School and Acalanes district officials have started trying to have the kinds of conversations Sofia was hoping for, in part through “digital citizenship” training.
Acalanes district Superintendent John Nickerson said he wants students to understand what is appropriate and what is not so they don’t knowingly or unknowingly commit crimes.
“This is a horrible thing, and people shouldn’t be doing it,” he said. “Digital citizenship is the new frontier of how we interact with people using digital media responsibly.”
Journalism teacher Melissa Quiter said she has learned since Sofia’s story was published that many teens regard the sharing of nude photos as common practice.
“Unfortunately, this is a generally accepted behavior among teenagers,” she said. “And as adults, we need to address it and figure out how to help them.”
Orinda Police Chief Mark Nagel and Moraga Police Lt. Jon King said their departments are trying to work with schools and the community to create a greater awareness of cybersecurity and cyberbullying.
“In this day and age of smartphones,” Nagel said, “we don’t know — is there another Dropbox account going on? I have no idea. You just never know. And until we know, we can’t act.”
Do you think teens will change their behavior?