Sextortion typically begins with an innocent online connection. A young person may encounter someone on a social media platform, a dating app, or even a gaming platform like Roblox. They bond over shared interests, and the online friendship becomes a regular interaction.
As the conversation progresses, it takes an unexpected turn towards sexual topics, initiated by the other person. The young person may feel confused or even apprehensive, but not suspect any malicious intent. In some cases, they may share explicit photos or engage in intimate acts on camera, unaware of the digital trap being set.
Unbeknownst to them, the perpetrator captures and saves their private moments. This gives the offender leverage to manipulate and control the young person. They threaten to expose the explicit content unless their demands for money, more images or victims are met. The threat of exposure can seem extremely real when the perpetrator goes to the lengths of searching through the young person’s social media platforms to find their close friends and family members’ accounts.
The sudden realisation of being trapped in a sextortion scheme induces panic and a range of negative emotions in the young person. They may feel violated, afraid, and embarrassed. Sadly, in some cases, the psychological impact can lead to thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
It is crucial for parents, carers, and safeguarding professionals to be aware of the signs of sextortion and take proactive measures to protect young people.