Sam from Vancouver wanted to know more about sextortion after she read an article in Glamour magazine about a brave young lady, Ashley Reynolds, who turned her victimization into a 105 year conviction against her abuser, Lucas Michael Chansler. Well Sam, we’ve done our homework and are happy to report back! What we learned is that sextortion can have devastating effects on victims and, sadly, that it is very easy to become a victim.
Here are our 5 most pressing questions about sextortion – answered.
- What is Sextortion?
Sextortion is a serious crime that occurs when someone threatens to distribute your private and sensitive material if you don’t provide them with images of a sexual nature, sexual favors or money. The perpetrator may also threaten to harm your friends or family by using information they have obtained from your online profiles and electronic devices unless you comply with their demands.
- How does it happen?
There are a few ways this can happen, the first being that the perpetrator gains your trust by pretending to be someone they’re not via fake social profiles and lures you into an online relationship that results in you providing them with the material. Alternatively, they might be lurking in a chat room and simply recording your posts or live stream of sexually explicit images to be used as leverage against you. Finally, they may hack into your electronic device using malware to gain access to your files and take control of your web cam and microphone without you knowing it.
- What can I do to protect myself?
- Do not send compromising images of yourself to anyone no matter who they are or who they say they are
- Do not open attachments from people you do not know
- Turn off your devices and web cams when you’re not using them
- I’m a parent, how do I protect my kids?
Be nosy! It’s ok for parents to be nosy when it comes to the use of social media apps like Instagram, Snapchat, Kik, and ooVoo. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the average age of a sexploitation victim is 14 years with the youngest being just 8 years old so, this is your free pass for being a “helicopter parent.”
- Be nosy!
- Don’t charge or leave mobile devices in the kids bedrooms at night
- Set up passwords for downloading apps that you know and control
- Talk to your kids about the dangers of communicating and sending photos to people they do and do not know
- Place a sticker over the camera on all computers and mobile devices and instruct your children to only remove the sticker when they are skyping with grandparents or during other supervised chats.
- What if it happens to me or someone I know?
If you receive sextortion threats you are not alone. In most cases, the perpetrator is an adult pretending to be a teenager and you are most likely one of many victims being targeted by the same person. Don’t be afraid or too embarrassed to talk to an adult about what is happening. sextortion needs to be reported.
In the USA: Contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI or tips.fbi.gov
In Canada: Contact Cybertip.ca
While sextortion does typically involve young victims there are similar crimes that you will want to be aware of that also involve intimate images. Those are Cyber Bullying and the Non-Consensual Distribution of Intimate Images, these offences are being responded to by various stages of new legislative authorities worldwide. Public Safety Canada has a list of the countries that currently have legislation in place to protect against these crimes as well as a examples of existing Criminal Code offences that relate, such as Voyeurism, Obscene Publication and Criminal Harassment.
As for the Ashley Reynolds story, there are still a large number of unidentified victims being searched for by the FBI so that they may be informed that their abuser is behind bars and receive proper counseling.