Among the various online threats that teenagers confront today, one has been gaining rapid momentum: sextortion. Between 2019 and 2021, the number of reports made to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) concerning the sextortion of minors and adolescents more than doubled. Regrettably, this disturbing trend continues, with teenage boys emerging as the primary targets in recent incidents. According to reports from early 2022, a staggering 79% of offenders aimed to extort money from their victims.
What does sextortion entail?
Sextortion, derived from the combination of “sex” and “extortion,” occurs when someone exploits another individual’s sexual imagery for blackmail or threats. Simply put, a sextortionist coerces or blackmails an individual into performing unwanted actions, such as sending additional compromising photos, maintaining contact, or providing financial compensation, by threatening to expose their sexual imagery. Both strangers encountered online and former romantic partners can subject victims to sextortion in an effort to harass, embarrass, and manipulate them.
Understanding sextortion as a criminal act
Instances of sextortion typically occur when a person has shared a nude or nearly nude photo or video with someone they connected with online and believed to be trustworthy. Unfortunately, in many cases, the child falls victim to an individual with malicious intentions – someone seeking to acquire sexual imagery from the child through deceit, coercion, and other deceitful methods. If you want to learn more about sexual blackmail, visit the center ricatti online.
Often, offenders gain the child’s trust by assuming false identities (commonly known as catfishing) or by sharing photos of someone else whom they are impersonating, such as another child. Additionally, they may employ fake accounts to communicate with the child. Once they obtain explicit imagery from the child, they proceed to blackmail and threaten the child with the public release of the images unless the child complies with their demands.
Sextortion knows no platform boundaries
Regrettably, it appears that no platform is impervious to these types of scams. Sextortion cases have been reported across numerous popular social media, dating, gaming, and messaging applications.
Factors that increase vulnerability to sextortion
Interacting with others online plays a significant role in how children socialize, often resulting in regular connections with individuals they solely know through mutual friends, shared interests, or online gaming. Importantly, these online acquaintances, even if adults, are often not perceived as strangers by children.
Research has revealed that many children consider chatting and flirting with adults they meet online as normal. Innocent exchanges or friendships can rapidly transform into traumatic experiences if a child is deceived or coerced into sharing intimate images that are subsequently used against them as leverage for blackmail.
The profound trauma and isolation caused by sextortion
Approximately 85% of young adults and teenagers surveyed, who had their intimate images exploited for blackmail by peers or online perpetrators, cited embarrassment as the primary reason for refraining from seeking help from friends and family.
Children subjected to sextortion often fail to perceive themselves as victims and instead blame themselves for the situation. They are often overwhelmed by feelings of shame, fear, hopelessness, and isolation, which perpetrators exploit to enforce their threats. Tragically, cases have been reported of such abuse escalating rapidly, resulting in self-harming behaviors and even suicide.