By Charis Hill
According to the National Crime Agency recent reports show that there has been a significant rise in the number of victims of sextortion. In 2015 428 victims come forth, but in 2017 that number has more than tripled with 1,304 cases having been reported.
What is sextortion?
Sextortion is when people are persuaded to allow others to film them carrying out sex acts. Without their knowledge victims, the majority of which are men, are recorded and then blackmailed by gangs of criminals.
One man, who shan’t be named, said it happened to him. What he thought to be a secret act between himself and a lady he had been getting to know online, for the sole purpose of their own sexual gratification turned out to be much more sinister. He states: “The computer screen I was looking at flipped – and I was then watching a video of myself back on a loop,” further adding “I know this sort of stuff happens but you never expect it to happen to you.”
The victim was then asked to send a sum of £600 otherwise his intimate video would be shared amongst friends and family. It is largely suspected that the criminal gang behind the incident is, most likely, based in the Philippines. It is unknown how gang members discover details of family and friends and in many cases, details of victim workplaces, but the victim here reports that it was at this point that “things felt lot more sinister.”
The victim in this case paid £300 before the threats ceased to continue, but the real repercussions of being a victim of sextortion are likely to extend above and beyond monetary value. Whilst it is thought to have cost victims from the UK millions of pounds, being duped by criminal gangs into sextortion can have the direst of consequences with a number of victims committing suicide. Roy Sinclair, of the National Crime Agency states: “Some people have paid the ultimate price and we know of at least five people who’ve taken their own life because they felt there was no other way out.” Other probable effects include; depression, serious anxiety, PTSD and paranoia.
In this instance the victim felt he was able to speak with officers about what happened, but not all do. With sex and intimacy still being seen as particularly taboo, victims worry about the consequences of making a report to Police. Many men dread being blamed or judged for their own actions and many victims fear they will lose their jobs and their family will turn against them. The true number of victims is therefore unknown. But the NCA still encourage reporting crimes of sextortion to the police, and recommend following advice which is out there to prevent this happening.
With more and more people accessing the internet than ever before there is a huge worry that relationships are turning digital. In evidence, the rise in sextortion coincides with the huge rise in cases of revenge porn. But, sextortion differs from the likes of revenge porn, an act often. While revenge porn is an act of image based abuse typically perpetrated by intimate partners, or any persons, known to the victims as a means of control, harm or humiliation, sextortion has an added threat of danger as perpetrators are unknown to the victim. The victim thinks they know who they are talking to but most often than not it is a guise used to lure men in. Victims then feel added concern about making reports to the police; they blame themselves and worry about being judged.
Ultimately vigilance is required, and everyone should be aware that once footage is made and gone, it is no longer within your control as to what happened; but more needs to be done to help and support victims of this crime, and stop it happening in the future. Real-life relationships must be encouraged over internet based interactions; and legislation, policing and education needs to continually develop, and respond to the modern digital world if we are to prevent future instances of sextortion.
Advice if you are targeted: