What is Sextortion?

A Massachusetts man is on trial. His crime? Stalking. But, it’s probably not what you think. The 48-year-old was chatting and sharing photos with a 16-year-old girl, and these chats and photos were “sexual in nature.” The pair met on social media, and when the girl asked to stop these exchanges, the man threatened to send the shared photos to her friends. This is a case of sextortion.

10DThe Definition of Sextortion

Sextortion is a type of sexting that can have serious consequences. Sexting, of course, at a basic level, is the sharing of nude or sexually explicit photos and chat, usually from one cell phone to another or on social media. The practice is legal when done between consenting adults, but when those under 18 are involved, child pornography and sexual exploitation laws come into play.

Sextortion usually refers to the act of extorting someone by using digital photos that are sex-related. The party doing the extorting will usually demand something like property, money, sex, or another service from the victim. If the victim doesn’t meet the demands, the one doing the extorting threatens that they will share or distribute the sexually explicit photos.

What Can You Do If You are Being Sextorted?

If you believe that you are being sextorted, there are some things that you can do depending on the conditions. First, if you are under 18, you are protected by child pornography and child sexual exploitation laws will come into play. If you are over the age of 18, you might be protected by various laws including stalking, sexual harassment, extortion, or wiretapping.

For those who are under 18, the first thing to do is tell a parent or adult. However, keep in mind that some people are “mandated reporters,” such as teachers. This means that they are required by law to report any instance of sexual victimization of anyone under the age of 18. Keep in mind charges in some cases can be brought against anyone involved, even hypothetically, whether they are guilty of a crime, or not. I’ve seen cases where two 15 year olds consented to sending each other sexting pics and each of them were charged, and each were victims, even though they consented, but were under age. So, it’s better to work directly with a parent or other close adult.

Your Options for Sextortion Help

You have a number of options when seeking out help for sextortion:

  • Contact a Crisis Hotline – There are crisis hotlines and chat services available that will allow you to remain anonymous during this process. Usually, these organizations will refer you to local people who can help.
  • Contact a Victim Advocate – Many counties, police stations, and crisis centers have victim advocates and social workers available for these situations. These people can help you put together a plan and get a protection order against the person who is threatening you.
  • Contact a Legal Aid Organization – Simply doing a Google search will help you to find a local legal aid organization. In this case, just search “legal assistance” or “legal aid.”
  • Reach Out to a Lawyer – If you have a case and have gotten legal advice and evidence, you can contact a lawyer. They will help you to remove any photos that have been posted online.
  • Contact the Police – File a report by contacting local law enforcement.
  • Tell a School Counselor – You will get the wheels turning when telling a school counselor. Remember, they are required by law to report the incident.

Advice for the Parents of Victims

Many young people are reluctant to tell adults about sextortion and sexting for several reasons. They might believe they will make the situation worse or they might believe that they will be judged. Some might also believe that they will face criminal actions, too.

If your child does tell you about possible sextortion, make sure that they know you are there for them no matter what. With this type of loving and supportive communication, you will be able to deal with this situation as a team.

Ask your child to tell you their side of the story, and then take it from there. You might want to communicate with people you both have trust in. This way you can fill the gaps. You might also consider contacting any social media services where photos were shared, such as Facebook. They will usually help. It is also a good idea to contact a victim advocate, as they know what type of evidence to look for that can be used in court. Finally, make sure to report the person via social media, which will help to block the accused account.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

How Parents can de-motivate Sexting in their Teens

Whatever the appeal of sexting is to kids (attention), it’s definitely there, and won’t be going away too soon. Of all the things that teens can do in their daily lives, why spend time sexting?4D

  • To feel cool
  • To get a crush’s attention
  • To make a relationship seem more serious
  • To harass the recipient
  • Peer pressure
  • ATTENTION, SHOCK, AWE, SEX.

Before the advent of sexting, teens talked sex and even shared racy photos with each other. But the old-fashioned way meant that the only viewers were the people with the teen.

Sexting, on the other hand, means that the communication—including naked images—can spread to thousands of people like wildfire. Privacy is zero. Furthermore, it’s illegal for teens to sext.

Just how bad can it get?

Well, if teen Jesse Logan were still alive, we could ask her how it felt when her classmates harassed her after her nude image got out to other students after she merely sent it to her boyfriend. Unfortunately, she killed herself over this.

I’m sure she wouldn’t have sent him the photo had she known of the wide-reaching potential of sexting. Can we blame her for not anticipating the school-wide circulation of her photo? Whose responsibility is it to teach kids this stuff? Maybe even her parents were in the dark; not all adults are savvy about the dangers of cyberspace.

Calling All Parents…

  • Sit down with your child and talk. Choose a good time to do this. Maybe include their favorite snack. But just get it done. Be pre-emptive. Don’t wait for a bad sexting situation to arise.
  • Collect real-life stories of teen sexting incidents gone horrible and share them with your child.
  • Instruct them to immediately delete any sexual content that’s sent to them.
  • Explain how the Internet works and how easy it is for sext content to “get out there.”
  • Recognize that the peer pressure to sext is similar to the peer pressure to drink and smoke. Don’t just tell your kids what not to do. Role play with them. Recruit an older teen to do some staged pressuring. See how your child responds. Does your child stammer and find it difficult to vocalize resistance? Are they at a loss for words? Is their body language mousy? If the answer is “yes” to these, you have a big job to get done fast.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to BestHomeSecurityCompanys.com discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

How to stop Teenage Sexting

Sexting is the act of sending images of a sexual nature via cell phone, often naked pictures. Because texting technology is so readily available and easy to understand, parents should be quite leery of telling themselves, “Oh, MY kid would never do that!” Studies showy your kid already did it. 12-17 year olds sext. And studies show 50-75 year olds do it as much as 18-25 year olds. Picture that!

bioSexting is not the same as when a teen shows a naked Polaroid photo to the crowd huddled in front of the school lockers. The eight people that where huddled is where the image stops. If a digital photo is shared via sexting, the whole world could be viewing it within 30 minutes. Kids have taken their lives as a result of this same scenario.

The bigger issue is that teens normally don’t think about the illegality of sexting images of kids under 18. In many cases this is considered child pornography. Kids have been prosecuted as perpetrators of child porn when they themselves were the victims. So parents, ask your kids, “Did you know that if you get caught sexting, you could be convicted of child porn and—for the rest of your life—be a registered sex offender?”

And why might your kid sext?

  • The same reason they might smoke or drink: peer pressure.
  • To feel grown-up or the thrill of doing something “naughty.”
  • Low self-esteem.
  • To get the recipient interested in them.
  • Coercion. Every child connected to the internet is susceptible. If your kid is unsupervised online, there is a solid chance they have connected to a predator.

A teen could end up a horrible statistic and in other cases get five years’ probation—just for sending out one nude photo.

Suppose your child never sexts. Don’t count out the possibility that they are capable of forwarding a received sext. In the eyes of the law, forwarding someone else’s sext is just as illegal as being the original sexter.

More Tips on Prevention

  • In a relaxed setting, discuss digital privacy with your kids.
  • For kids new to cell phone use or about to be, inform them you will conduct random monitoring of images. Tell this also to kids who’ve been using the phones for a while. Make sure they understand you’ll be looking at images, not reading texts.
  • Invite them to share with you what they know about classmates who sext.
  • Present yourself as their ally, not some judge or critic. Let them know that you know why teens are tempted to sext. Get them talking.
  • Inform them that you’ll be legally required to turn their phone in to the police if you find lewd images on it. Otherwise, as a parent, you are an accomplice to a crime.
  • Ask your kids how they’d manage life living with a child pornography conviction.
  • Make cell phones prohibited in their bedroom at night.
  • Keep the phone chargers in your room.

Habitual sexting, like any ongoing bad behavior, is a symptom of skewered family dynamics. Kids from a stable home life where they feel valued are less likely to get hooked on sexting.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to TheBestCompanys.com discussing  identity theft prevention.