What is Sextortion?
Forced sexual exploitation and sexual violence are rife and endemic in our society. Sexual violence currently affects millions of Americans every day, and you may just be the only source of help available to an abused person. Several online platforms make it possible and very easy for traffickers to exploit unsuspecting victims and connect them with buyers.
Ever since the dismantling of backpage.com, the market for online sex trafficking and prostitution has become fragmented, and traffickers now engage in many different tactics to lure their victims in. One of these methods is sextortion. Unfortunately, not many people, including parents, understand sextortion. Here, we provide some explanation of what sextortion is and how to help your child or teenager avoid falling prey to online predators.
Sextortion is another form of sexual harassment. Sextortion is a sex-related crime that occurs when someone threatens to distribute another person’s (typically a woman) private and sensitive material (sensual content) so that they can continue to obtain sexual images/content from them, sexual favors, or even money. It is essentially a person blackmailing someone else, forcing them to perform sexual acts in exchange for some favor.
How Does it Happen?
Sometimes, the perpetrator may threaten to harm the friends or relatives of the victim or publicly expose the sexual material they have previously extracted from the victims unless they comply with their demands. This kind of scenario usually plays out when, for instance, a teenage girl begins communicating with a stranger or supposed boyfriend online, and the individual begins to ask for nude photos of the girl.
After obtaining these photos, he then begins to ask for more explicit materials or money. If the girl refuses, he begins to threaten to show her friends, parents or to distribute the photo online. This pattern is likely to continue and degenerate into full-blown sex trafficking of the affected girl. Sextortion, like every other form of sexual harassment, can have such devastating effects on young victims regardless of their background, and it is pretty easy to become a victim.
The primary channel for sextortion is the internet, and predators often gain the trust of their victims by pretending to be someone they are not. The story of Sarah Cooper, a sex trafficking victim, and many others, elaborate how a seemingly harmful chat with a random online stranger can metamorphose into a sore sex trafficking experience.
Another method that predators use is to record people who post or live-stream sexually explicit images and videos of themselves. They may also hack into the electronic devices of such individuals, gaining access to their files and controlling their cameras without their victims even knowing or suspecting. Offline, this may occur when a teacher asks female students for sexual favors in exchange for good grades. This is also sextortion, although more commonly known as sexual harassment.
What Can You Do?
If you are a parent, a teenager, or have younger ones who might be a target of sextortion schemes, here are some tips to keep in mind to avoid falling prey to this technique:
Remember not to panic. It is not your fault, and you are not alone. Your fears are what the predator feds on.
Open up to someone you trust, so they can support you in getting help.
In the first place, never send compromising images of yourself to anyone, no matter who they are.
Do not give in by sending more money or sexual images and videos
Immediately discontinue communicating with the individual trying to exploit you
Keep their blackmail and threats as evidence on your device
If you’re a victim of sextortion or know someone else who’s been extorted, you can call your local FBI office or toll-free at 1-800-CALL-FBI
How We Can Help at Mission Haven
At Mission Haven, we focus on helping survivors of sextortion, DMST, sexual trafficking overcome the pain and trauma of their experiences and start a new life. The Mission Haven is a non-profit, charity-funded organization focused on providing a transformational Haven of Healing for victims and survivors of child sexual exploitation and sex trafficking like Sarah Cooper.
We believe that every single DMST or child sex trafficking survivor still has a chance at life at its best. Our goal at The Mission Haven is to provide them with all the support they need to start over. With your generous donations and support, we can continue to provide a truly safe haven of hope and healing equipped with essential resources to lift victims and survivors of domestic minor sex trafficking. To give, volunteer, or become a partner, feel free to contact us today.