June 17, 2024

What is Sextortion?

With the rise of online predators, online sex crimes like sextortion are becoming more prevalent. Sextortion, a disturbing form of online exploitation, poses significant risks to children and teens. In 2020, sextortion became the second most lucrative crime worldwide, affecting up to 5% of children and youth. Sextortion—a blend of the words ‘sex’ and ‘extortion’—involves predators threatening to share nude or explicit images they have received from the victim, often while posing as teenagers.

How Predators Operate

Predators often initiate contact by sending message requests, commenting on pictures, and pretending to be peers. Next, they engage in seemingly genuine conversations to form close friendships. Additionally, by pretending to be friendly and promising potentially romantic relationships, they gain trust. Some online predators offer things like modeling contracts, online game credits, or money in exchange for photos or videos. This is a process commonly called “online enticement”. Others hack computers to find sensitive information. They use all this information to exploit their victims into providing more content.

The Extortion Tactics

In some cases, predators don’t actually have any images or videos but convince their victims they do. They threaten to distribute the content to the victim’s family, friends, or other contacts. Consequently, this extortion forces the victim into sending more content in a desperate attempt to protect their reputation. These predators feed on their victim’s shame and embarrassment. When the victim is a child or young person, the emotional devastation can be immense. They may feel terrified, believing they are in trouble or that everyone will find out, leaving them feeling isolated and hopeless.

Resources and Help

If you or someone you know is dealing with sextortion, resources are available at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Project Safe Childhood. Furthermore, you can report incidents of sexploitation to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children or the Federal Bureau of Investigations (1-800-CALL-FBI (2255-324)).

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.


Josh Gillispie