Gender-based violence is a continuum of behaviors, all rooted in perpetrators exerting power and control over their victims. A long overlooked form of gender-based violence is coerced and extorted sex. It is an age-old abuse — from teachers coercing sex acts from students in exchange for fair grades, to judges extorting sex in exchange for favorable custody decisions, to landlords demanding in sex in lieu of rent. In the digital age, this abuse has proliferated, with perpetrators targeting women and girls throughout the country, and around the world. Perpetrators seize control of personal information and images on victims’ computers, or deceivingly befriend victims on social media, and gain their trust. Victims are often then coerced to submit to sex or create and/or share sexually explicit images under the threat of exposing private, intimate, or embarrassing information or images. The harms to victims from this sex abuse are real and long-lasting.
Now this conduct has a name: sextortion. But gaps in laws throughout the country have allowed perpetrators to go unpunished or under-punished.