Even if you haven’t heard the term sextortion yet, you’re probably familiar with what it is. You take a photo, or someone else takes a sexual photo of you that you don’t want the entire world to see. But how can you be sure no one else sees it? Just because someone promises they won’t send it to their friends doesn’t mean they’ll keep their word.
When that photo is shared in order to get something from you, that’s sextortion.
A sextorter could be someone you know from real life or online. They rely on making you feel ashamed, and they don’t think that you’ll reach out for help. Thorn (wearethorn.org), an After School partner, was seeing this happen all the time, so they decided to do something about it. You can too. To see how, check out www.StopSextortion.com.
What Exactly is Sextortion?
Sextortion is a rising form of abuse that typically is conducted online. It’s defined as “the threat to expose sexual images in order to make a person do something.”
For example, imagine that John and Jamie are dating. John shares nude images to Jamie. The two break up, and Jamie decides to force John back into the relationship or Jamie will release the nude photos to the entire school. This is sextortion.
Or imagine John and Jamie meet online. They spend all their free time talking, and they decide to share nude images. As soon as Jamie shares an image, John starts demanding more, threatening that if she doesn’t keep making new nudes for him, he will tell everyone. Her family, her friends, her school. This is sextortion.
Thorn is “dedicated to ending child sex trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children.” The nonprofit organization recently released the results of a survey polling 13-25-year-olds who had experienced sextortion. Over 2,000 responses were received, revealing the ways in which these young adults had been exploited, how it unfolded, and more.
This research includes insights from victims who had never told anyone about this before telling Thorn.
After reading the study, the After School Safety Team compiled their takeaways to share with you. Here are several items that stood out in the report, which you can download here.
- Threats come quickly and constantly
As detailed in the report, the majority (60%) of sextortion victims are threatened within the first two weeks of contact with the perpetrator, and nearly half (47%) threatened daily. This fast and frequent harassment puts a tremendous amount of pressure and stress on the victim.
- “Blocking” doesn’t always work
While nearly two-thirds (65%) of victims blocked the offenders, 45% of victims stated that they were still pursued through a different communication method or through a different account on the same platform.
- The majority of victims complied to avoid further harassment
In acts of sextortion, the offenders often threaten to continue the harassment unless the victim completes an action, such as sending pictures or completing a sexual act. Over 60% of victims decided to comply. Disturbingly, 68% stated that the threats worsened and became more frequent after they completed the requested action.
- Victims don’t feel safe sharing with others
One young woman surveyed stated, “Society continues to dismiss the fact that people are forced into situations (like sending nudes) and that they should be shamed if they are.” This view prevents teens and others from sharing what they are going through and seeking out help. Only a quarter of victims reached out to the platform or website they were being exploited through.
We all can do more to support victims of sextortion and prevent harassment from happening on social media platforms. After School remains vigilant on issues like self-digital harm and sextortion, and allows users to remove potentially harmful posts with a single report.
If you’re experience sextortion, get help now, text THORN to 741741 to speak confidentially with a trained counselor.