Are you being sextorted and you need help?
Has someone threatened to share intimate or explicit images or videos of you without your consent?
Are you being blackmailed in exchange for your private images staying private?
What you’re dealing with is called “sextortion,” and it’s not okay.
What is “sextortion?”
As the word suggests, “sextortion” is a combination of the words “sex” and “extortion.”
A sextortion scam has a common narrative that goes something like this: someone receives a seemingly harmless text or message over social media from an unknown sender. The sender will attempt to lull the victim into feeling a false sense of security with harmless conversation that turns explicit that usually ends up with the anonymous messenger asking the victim for a sexually explicit image or video of themselves. If the victim gives it to them, the predator has the advantage and can blackmail them.
The reality is, sextortion can happen to anyone and it causes a lot of harm to those who are unlucky enough to face it.
Many victims of image-based sexual abuse—also known as revenge porn—or deepfakes feel powerless. They’re repeatedly exploited each time these abusive images are viewed or shared, yet the idea of removing them from the vast sea of the internet seems impossible.
If either horrific reality is something you’ve experienced, you’re not alone, and you do have options. Removing anything from the internet permanently isn’t always possible, but there are steps you can take to slow the spread of abusive images.
What you can do it you’re being extorted or sextorted
If you or someone you know if being extorted, here are some tips to fight based on what victim advocates say:
1. Report it. Report what’s happened to the authorities in your state or country. They can help you assess your situation and may also encourage you to consider reporting to other agencies like the police. Remember, anyone can be a victim of sextortion, and you are not alone.
2. Don’t panic. Reach out instead—get support from a trusted friend or family member as well as an expert counseling support service if you are feeling anxious or stressed.
3. Stop all contact with the perpetrator. Block them and ask your friends to do the same. Consider temporarily deactivating your social media accounts (but don’t delete them as you may lose evidence that way).
4. Collect evidence. Keep a record of all contact from the perpetrator, particularly any demands or threats and make a note of everything you know about the perpetrator. This could include the Skype name and ID, Facebook URL and Money Transfer Control Number (MTCN).
5. Secure your accounts. Change the passwords for your social media and online accounts, and review the privacy and security settings of your accounts. Notify the relevant social media platform. Notify Skype, YouTube, or whichever app or social media service was used. You can find helpful links about reporting abuse to social media platforms on a particular website.
You can also utilize online resources from organizations like Thorn and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Kids, who both defend children from sexual abuse.
Sexual exploitation is never acceptable
No matter the circumstances or what our porn-saturated culture deems as normal, the exploitation of another human being is never acceptable—whether those images are “real” or digitally engineered.
It may be discouraging to live in a world where there’s a demand for nonconsensual porn of real people, but there’s also hope for the future.
Victims can be empowered survivors who speak out about their experiences and fight for change. Each of us can help stop the demand for exploitative content, and expose the porn industry that normalizes and fuels their abuse.
Remember that help is always available and that you are never alone.
Here’s help for if you’ve been victimized by deepfakes or revenge porn.
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