Jun 23, 2016 3:41 PM
Half of 'sextortion' victims are under 18, UNH research shows
DURHAM — Roughly half of those who say they have been victims of “sextortion” are under the age of 18, the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center has concluded.
Sextortion is described as a form of blackmail that often uses sexual images to threaten victims into performing sexual favors. The center stated in a release forms of sextortion - in addition to exposure of sexual images – includes stalking, assault, physical violence, hacking into accounts and extorting money.
Forty-five percent of the threats were successfully carried out, according to the report.
“Sextortion is a pressing issue and it is time for policy makers and technology companies to take action against perpetrators and provide remedies to victims,” said Janis Wolak, senior researcher in the center and lead researcher on the study. “So many survey participants felt they had nowhere to turn for help or found only obstacles when they sought assistance. They need quicker and more effective responses from both technology sites and law enforcement, as well as better guidance about actions they could take to help defeat threats.”
The survey was conducted primarily through Facebook and Twitter, garnering anonymous responses from roughly 1,600 young people. Thirty-three percent of the respondents said they were threatened on a daily basis and roughly 22 percent said the threats continued for more than six months.
Researchers stated that shame, embarrassment, and self-blame kept many respondents from seeking help from friends and family, or from reporting their exploitation to technology companies or law enforcement.
The research was funded by Thorn, a non-profit that attempts to drive technology innovation to fight against the sexual exploitation of children.
“This is one of the first sextortion studies that lets us hear the voice of the victims of this emerging crime,” said Thorn CEO Julie Cordua. “Perpetrators are not making idle threats and often follow through with violence online and in person. Therefore, it is critical that parents and educators, policy makers, law enforcement and the technology industry develop better ways of protecting and assisting young people. This study and its conclusions offer a starting place.”