Everything that parents need to know about Sextortion

If your teen is harassed or bullied online, it’s not always due to their carelessness. In fact, in most instances, your child is forced to share their nude photos.

You must be thinking what is it that kids have to listen to someone’s request of sharing their online photos. Well, if you actually thinking about it, then it’s a sign that you unaware that their kids could be blackmailed online.

If a child shares their photos online with sex offenders, it’s to protect themselves against blackmailing.

“Sextortion” is the latest danger that’s prevalent across the internet and your child could be its victim too.

Unlike online flirting and sexting, sextortion is something that’s executed only by repeat offenders. Sextortion could take two different forms. The first one includes harassing or threatening a child to share their explicit photos or even videos. But with the other, a child is forced to send money or some more explicit material by threatening them with the dissemination of their nude photos/videos the offender may already have.

And Sextortion doesn’t just include just distributing explicit content of minors; it could go beyond that and take even a worse form when the perpetrator threatens to harm or even kill their victims, when they don’t acquiesce to their sick demands.

The trend of Sextortion is growing and this is what makes it terribly awful. In an appalling report, sextortion has increased by 32 percent just alone in three years, from 2010 to 2013. In another study by the Brooking institute, around 71 percent of the total cases of sextortion include a minor. The report even reflects on the sources and states that 91 percent of cases that involves minors take place on social media. But there are more studies that have even given as better breakdown of the sextortion facts. Another study by the University of New Hampshire Crimes Against Children Research Center and non profit organization Thorn, revealed that 54 percent of the total sextortion cases take place on social media, while the remaining 41 percent happen on instant messaging and photo-sharing platforms.

What many parents of the victimized children don’t know is that their kids already know the sextortionist prior to any disturbing incident. The study also revealed that most sex offenders usually have multiple victims ranging from 10 to as much as one hundred individuals.

In world full of anonymity, creating a false identity is as convenient as signing up for Facebook or Instagram. Then, many people are being victims of sex offenders who might live in the other part of the world; this what the precarious part of internet is about – anyone sitting anywhere could be a source of threat for you. It’s easy for the offenders to lure unsuspecting minors who would easily share their personal information online without making a lot of questions. And it doesn’t even require a lot of persuading to convince a minor to share their personal photographs or other intimate information that could be used to blackmail them.

In some cases, where the offenders are cyber criminals too, they can use more insidious tactics like downloading malware onto their potential victims’ computer and remotely acquiring access to their sensitive and private material like photos, videos or other files that they could be used for the purpose of extortion.

The biggest reason why sextortion never makes it to the headlines is because the victims of sextortion never report what happens with them to avoid any kind of shame. In many instances, the victims make an unintentional move without realizing how bad it could turn out for them.

In the aforementioned study by the Thorn, two-third of victims said that they didn’t report their attack. And those who did, they were being met with a lot of dismissive or negative responses. The worst part is that the law enforcement has nothing that could protect the victim against sextortion. To file a case, tech companies require proper and extensive documentation that could take months to file the official complaint. Just because of this shelter that the law enforcement is providing sex offenders, online assaults are now going even offline with the offender physically assaulting or even raping their victims.

Beyond all the aforementioned consequences, there are many other devastating effects of the sextortion on the victims. In a study by the Department of Justice, extortion victims go through different painful phases that involve self-harm, depression and even dropping out of school. In fact, according to a 2015 analysis by the FBI involving 43 sextortion victims, at least two child victims committed suicide, including other 10 victims. Thus, there are at least 28 percent of sextortion victims who end up taking their lives in attempt to take their life.

The are the cases that make it the news. Amongst all sextortion offenders, the most prominent has been Luis Mijangos, who had at least 230 victims by the time he was arrested. The recent incident of sextortion includes two students from the George Mason University who were convinced to perform sexual acts by an unknown offender, and then threatened with the dissemination of their video if they won’t pay him $5000.

More saddening is the story of Amanda Todd, a 13-year-old girl from Canada who bared her breasts in an online video chat which eventually made it to her online friends on Facebook when she failed to meet the blackmailer’s demands. In 2013, the distressed Todd posted a video of herself online about elucidating her horrifying experience, and later committed suicide.

The number of cases of sextortion are rising. Online sexual abuse is itself a painful experience, but when it’s coupled with blackmailing, it poses a constant threat and trouble for the victim when they aren’t able to ask for someone’s help or fulfill the demands set by the blackmailers. As a parent, it’s important that you keep a regular check on your kids and know how their kids are holding up, mentally. Be aware of any warning signs or symptoms that your child might be showing. Remember that the dangers of sextortion go beyond physical and emotional upset. Don’t take it granted if your child ever tells you that they have been harassed or teased by someone they met online, it could be something much worse than what you might be thinking.

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