A Call to Action: Ending "Sextortion" in the Digital Age

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July 2016
  • Violence Against Women and Girls
  • Cyber Sex Abuse
  • Publication

In July 2016, Legal Momentum, in partnership with Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe and the Thomson Reuters Foundation, published “A Call to Action: Ending Sextortion in the Digital Age.” The report describes the scope of the problem, the gaps in the law that allow perpetrators to escape accountability, and proposes simple legislative solutions that would allow law enforcement to effectively address sextortion.

Excerpt from the Report

"Sextortion is a new word but a very old concept: it is a widespread form of corruption in which sex, not money, is the currency of the bribe. The perpetrator asks for sex instead of cash. Today the crime has become digital and cybersextortion is spreading fast.

Despite increasing recognition from law enforcement agencies that sextortion exists and that it is indeed on the rise—the United States lacks adequate legal solutions to ensure justice for victims. This leaves women and young girls vulnerable at the hands of those willing to abuse their power, and— increasingly—online predators.

In the United States, in fact, sextortion has proliferated in the digital age. Traditionally, the crime was perpetrated by abusers who knew their victims, but today perpetrators hack into personal computers and smart phones to obtain private information (including sexual images) and then demand sex or more sexual imagery. Many perpetrators have abused multiple, even hundreds, of victims. Victims are powerless. When they have not complied, perpetrators have released sexual images to the victims’ friends, family members, congregations, teachers, co-workers, and the world at large, via the Internet.

Women and girls are disproportionately impacted by cyber-sextortion. Predators exploit digitally-savvy children and teenagers, often by pretending to be peers on social networking sites. Using false identities, offenders manipulate children and teenagers to give them information or images that the victims would not want friends, family or their school community to know about. Predators then use these images to demand sex or more sexual images."