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What is Sextortion?

Sextortion involves blackmail or coercion with the purpose of extorting sexually explicit images, messages, money or sexual favours from another person online. In order to blackmail effectively, the perpetrator uses personal information or compromising images that the victim has previously sent to them or that they have found themselves, through hacking or the victim previously sharing content online. The perpetrator then threatens to send these images or messages to the friends, family, school or workplace of the victim unless they share further sexual content or transfer money to them.

Why do people sextort?

There are a number of reasons that people sextort others. Some of these reasons include:

  • Financial gain – Sometimes the blackmailer might use someone else’s compromising images or messages to blackmail money or things of monetary value from them. The victims will often do what the blackmailer will say to avoid the risk of their compromising images or messages being made public.
  • Fulfilling sexual desires – If someone sends ‘sexts’ or explicit images to another person, that person can then use them images to sexually blackmail (sextort) and manipulate the victim into sending more sexual images or video content.
  • Revenge – When relationships break down, some people use images that were shared whilst in the relationship to blackmail their ex-partner, this can be known as ‘revenge porn‘. This isn’t always done because they want anything from their ex-partner in particular – It can also be because they are angry that the relationship ended and want to see their ex-partner scared or worried that their intimate images could be made public so that people important to them can see the ‘real them’ or even sent to targeted audiences such as school, work colleagues or friends online.
  • Humiliation – Unfortunately, there are people who enjoy seeing people humiliated or terrified of being humiliated. These people threaten to release sexually explicit messages and images with the sole purpose of making the victim anxious.

How to avoid being sextorted

Although sextortion can have devastating consequences and has even led to numerous suicides when the victims can’t see a way out – there are thing that you can do to reduce your chances of becoming a sextortion victim. Some of the ways you can prevent sextortion are:

  • Checking your privacy settings – By adjusting your privacy settings on your social media accounts, you are at less risk of being targeted by a potential sextorter. The less information they can see about you, the less likely they are to be able to blackmail you with anything.
  • Be mindful of your friends list – It can be easy to accept friend requests from people you don’t know online, but it’s important to remember that once you accept the request, that person can see all of the information on your profile and could possibly use that information against you in the future. Be careful of who you accept into your online circle.
  • Don’t be too generous with your trust – When talking to people online, try not to trust too easily. If someone asks or pressures you for information or sexually explicit images, remember that as soon as you send anything – it is gone forever. Any potential blackmailers could then potentially have all they need to sextort you.

These tips might seem like common sense, but you would be amazed at how many people make one mistake online – and pay a huge price for it.

What to do if you are being sextorted

Regardless of whether you are a teenager or an adult, If you are being sextorted, it can be extremely scary. It is important to remember that you’re not alone, even though you might feel it right now. Our Global Support Service has trained advisors that can help you, wherever you are in the world. There are also some simple steps that you can take when being blackmailed online which are:

  • Confide in someone – When going through something like sextortion, it’s important that you have a good support network that can support and advise you. Talking to someone that you trust can really help you.
  • Don’t buckle under pressure – When you’re being blackmailed, it can feel like you don’t have any other option but to comply with what the perpetrator is asking of you. It is important that you don’t crack under the pressure. If you give in, they will continue to do it.
  • Contact the Police – Blackmail constitutes a criminal offense in most states and countries around the world. Remember to take screenshots and record any evidence you can to make prosecution more likely.