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What is Sextortion?
- According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), sextortion is a criminal act that occurs when someone demands something of value, typically images of a sexual nature, sexual favors, or money from a person by either threatening to release or distribute material the victim seeks to keep private such as sexually explicit images and videos.
How does Sextortion Happen?
- The perpetrator leads the victim to believe the perpetrator can be trusted as the perpetrator represents himself/herself as a business (i.e., modeling agency), friend, or even victim’s boyfriend or girlfriend. This results in the victim releasing sensitive material to the perpetrator.
- Most common tactics used by perpetrators are:
- Threatening to post previously acquired sexual content online; and
- Threatening to post previously acquired sexual content online specifically for family and friends to see.
Why is Sextortion Happening?
- Based on the information provided by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), sextortion appears to have occurred with one of three primary objectives:
- To acquire additional, and often increasingly more explicit, sexual content (photos/videos) of the child;
- To obtain money from the child; and
- To have sex with the child.
Where does this happen?
According to a study done by the Brookings Institute, sextorion occurs in the following places:
- Video Sharing Social sites
- Video Voice Call apps
- Social Networks
- Messaging/Photo apps
- Gaming Platforms
- Dating Apps
- Image Board Sites
What are the Side Effects?
- NCMEC reported that in 18 % of sextortion cases, it was indicated that the child victim had experienced fear, anxiety, and depression.
- In 28 % of these reports, it was indicated that the child victim engaged in self-harm, had been suicidal, or had attempted suicide as a result of the victimization.
- For example, in 2010, a 13-year-old girl named Amanda Todd was a victim of sextortion. The Canadian girl showed her breasts during a video chat on the web. The recipient then messaged her on Facebook and demanded more. When Todd refused to cooperate, the recipient sent a photo to Todd’s Facebook friends. In 2012, she posted a video about her predicament. Soon after, she committed suicide.
Who are the Victims?
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children:
- 78% of the incidents involved female children and 12% involved male children; and
- The average age at the time of the incident was approximately 15 years old, despite a wider age-range for female children (8-17 years old) compared to male children (11-17 years old).
- In 2014, USA Today reported that the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force had recorded an increase in sextortion complaints from 5,300 in 2010 to 7,000 in 2013, a 32 % rise in three years.
Examples of Sextortion Cases:
- In November 2014, Lucas Michael Chansler, 30, of Jacksonville, Florida, was sentenced to 105 years in prison for producing child pornography. During a four-year period, Chansler is believed to have sexually extorted approximately 350 victims in 26 states, three Canadian provinces, and the United Kingdom.
- Between 2005 and 2009, Ivory Dickerson and Patrick Connolly victimized more than 3,800 children through sextortion. Using malware, Dickerson and Connolly were able to assume control of the victims’ computers and then demanded the victims send sexually explicit images of themselves. Dickerson was sentenced to 110 years in prison while Connolly was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
- In 2015, Jeremey Brendan Sears, of California pleaded guilty to two counts of producing child pornography and four counts of extortion, and was sentenced to 35 years in prison. Sears set up fake profiles on Facebook and other social networking websites that appeared to be for teenage boys and girls in order to persuade his victims to send sexually explicit photos or engage in sexually explicit web chats that he would record.
The following video has been provided by the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children and the Department of Justice. In this enactment, a teen is blackmailed into sending explicit images and videos to someone she met online.
- STOP SEXTORTION: Sextortion of Children in the United States, A Fact Sheet for Parents and Children, Fed. Bureau of Investigation (July 2015), http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2015/july/sextortion/stop-sextortion-brochure.
- Sextortion, Nat’l Ctr. for Missing and Exploited Children, http://www.missingkids.org/Sextortion (last visited Aug. 6, 2016).
- Tom Jackman,‘Sextortion,’ Growing Online Problem Worldwide, Victimizes Two George Mason Students, post (May 10, 2016), https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/true-crime/wp/2016/05/10/sextortion-growing-online-problem-worldwide-victimizes-two-george-mason-students./.
- Benjamin Wittes, Cody Poplin, Quinta Jurecic & Clara Spera, Cybersecurity, Teenagers, and Remote Sexual Assault, Brookings (May 2016), https://www.brookings.edu/research/sextortion-cybersecurity-teenagers-and-remote-sexual-assault./