What you need to know
Sexual extortion or ‘sextortion’ is a serious form of online blackmail.
The process of sexual extortion can happen on any interactive service, including image and video sharing, instant messaging or social media apps.
Offenders may even attempt capture nude or sexual images of a young person while they’re on live stream or video, which is often then as part of extortion.
Police have seen cases where a young person may have been coerced into sending one explicit image of themselves to someone, which then turns into demands for more images and threats to share their content.
These demands are usually for further sexual images, sexual favours or even money.
Offenders are manipulative in making a young person feel there is no way out of the situation, including threatening to share their content online with family, friends and acquaintances.
Fear, coercion and manipulation keep the crime going. In addition to the threats and coercion, victims often feel like they have done something wrong and will be punished by parents or carers or prosecuted by police if their actions are discovered.
If your child is or has been a victim, reassure them that it’s not their fault and that there is help available. Children and young people are never to blame for being a victim of online child sexual exploitation.
Advice for parents and carers
What can I do?
- Supervise your child online and know when they’re using a connected device
- Check whether the apps and games your child uses have a direct message function
- Your child should always say ‘no’ if someone online asks them for images or video.
If your child is in this age group they may be using connected devices to play games or watch videos. Some of these services have a direct message or chat function which can allow anyone to contact your child if strong privacy settings aren’t set.
Ensure your child knows that it’s okay to leave conversations where they feel uncomfortable or unsafe.
Your child should always come to you for help if someone asks them to send any type of image online. This could be a sign that something isn’t right and you need to take action.
What can I do?
- Have open and non-judgmental conversations about who your child might be interacting with online
- Know how to take action including to report and block
- Support your child– coming forward can take courage and your child may be reluctant to seek help if they fear they may be in trouble for their actions online.
If your child is in this age group they might be targeted through social networking, image or video sharing apps or instant messaging and coerced into creating and sending child sexual exploitation material.
An interaction may begin with giving complements, flattery or offering them something of value, in exchange for content.
Once an image is sent, the offender might start making demands for more content, threatening them with distributing their material unless they comply with their demands.
‘Switching off’ a device or uninstalling a social media service won’t make the problem go away. There can be offline impacts for your child, including the belief that their content could be shared at any time if an offender’s demands are not met.
Our message to young people in this situation is that nothing is so bad that you can’t tell someone and there is help available.
These situations can be distressing, reassure your child that it is not their fault. Your reassurance and support will help them handle the situation.
If your child is a victim of sexual extortion, consider the following options:
- Avoid sending more images, once your child has complied with demands there’s nothing to stop them from being targeted again
- Block the other person on all social media as well as their phone number and email
- Report the matter to police
- If child abuse material has been shared online, make a report to the eSafety Commissioner who can assist having the content removed.
Your child’s wellbeing should be your priority, a list of support services is here.