Please note: Sextortion is used in the media and popular culture. However legally police forces use the term Digital Sexual Exploitation or Sexploitation as that is term term criminals are charged with.

Sextortion is a form of blackmail that involves threatening to share intimate/sexual images, videos or information about someone for monetary gain or to force the victim to do something against their will. It is currently the most prevalent form of intimate image abuse in the UK, therefore it is vital that students are educated about Sextortion.

According to the Revenge Porn Helpline, Sextortion is the most prevalent form of intimate image abuse in the UK with 25% of cases in 2022 being related to it. Since 2021 a concerning trend has emerged on the Helpline, with a rising number of individuals being coerced and blackmailed through threats to expose explicit material.

This may seem like a trend directed mainly at adults, however there are several cases of young people being targeted by Sextortion blackmail. Online safety is an important element in Government guidance Keeping Children Safe in Education, with reference to the fact that not only should children and young people be educated on online safety but child-on-child abuse, including sexual violence, sexual harassment and cyber-bulling can occur online. 

Sextortion fits into that category, therefore it is vital that children and young people are educated on Sextortion including the signs, risks and preventative measures they can take as well as signposting them to helpful resources. 

Sextortion Definition

The Metropolitan police define Sextortion as “a form of blackmail. It involves threatening to publish sexual information, photos or videos about someone. This may be to extort money or to force the victim to do something against their will. Photos or recordings are often made without the victim realising or consenting.”

Sextortion in the UK

In 2023, Essex Police specialist child exploitation proactive investigation team worked hard to convict 21 year old Jay Lang who had exploited 26 victims during a 3 year period.

Lang posed as a 16 year old girl on social media where he made contact with young boys, some as young as 11. He would send fake nudes to these boys and ask for them to reciprocate with sexual images or videos. Once he has obtained this content he would revealed his true identity and make blackmail demands for additional images or money. Two of the victims Lang arranged to meet with in person and committed contact offences.

In total, the specialist officers and staff in the investigation team were able to secure charges in relation to 26 victims he targeted. Lang had no option but to admit a total of 46 charges, including:

  1.  Numerous counts of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity
  2. Causing or inciting child sexual exploitation
  3. Arranging or facilitating commission of a child sex offence
  4. Causing or inciting child prostitution of pornography and blackmail.

This was the largest child exploitation investigation ever undertaken by the Essex Police. Lang was jailed for 21 years and will serve a minimum of 14 years in jail before being eligible for release. Lang’s name will be placed on the sex offenders register for the rest of his life and he will be the subject of a sexual harm prevention order which will run for the rest of his life. This means all contact with children, both online and in-person, will be severely restricted.

How Sextortion Happens

The majority of Sextortion takes place online through social media platforms, dating apps, webcams or pornography sites. Often criminals will also use fake identities to befriend and catfish their victims online, convince them to send explicit images and then threaten to share these images.

Sextortion scammers have become increasingly sophisticated with their catfishing tactics including utilising multiple platforms and identities to carry out their scams. Sextortion can be committed by individuals, but there has been a rise in organised crime gangs taking part in Sextortion.

Men Often Fall Victim to Sextoriton 

The 2022 Revenge Porn Helpline Annual Report found that 90% of all men who contacted the helpline were seeking advice about Sextortion. This shows that Sextortion is an outlier in terms of victim type, compared to other forms of Revenge Porn or the sharing of intimate images which largely affect women. 

The Dangers of Sextortion for Victims 

The Helpline has identified that many people impacted by Sextortion are overwhelmed by the pressure of the situation and fear of their intimate images being shared with their family, friends and at times colleagues and strangers. 

The mental impact Sextortion and other forms of Revenge Porn have on individuals is not to be taken lightly. In March 2022, 17 years old Jordan DeMay, committed suicide after Sextortion threats that his intimate images would be shared online. A trio of Nigerian men posing on Instagram as a young woman convinced the young man to send explicit images, then blackmailed him for $1000. 

The National Crime Agency states that often victims of Sextortion blame themselves and it is vital that they understand it is not their fault. They have been tricked or deceived and there are organisations who can offer support. 

Signs of Sextortion

Here are some warning signs of online Sextortion from the National Crime Agency

  1. The user is moving too fast

If they express strong emotions for you straight away, or try to develop a relationship with you too quickly this can be a warning sign. They will behave extremely flirty and ask very early on for sexual images. They may also send you sexual or intimate images first to convince you to send yours. These images are often fake or taken from other people’s accounts without their consent. 

  1. They pressure you to do things you are not comfortable with

They will repeatedly ask you for sexual images or videos and become angry if you do not send them. Remember that it is never okay for someone to ask you to do things that do not make you comfortable. 

  1. They may tell you they have hacked your account or have access to your contacts 

Some users will tell you that they have hacked your device to gain access to your intimate images and they may threaten to share your images or your information unless money is given to them. 

What to do if you are a victim of Sextoriton

The Metropolitan Police recommend the following course of action if you or someone you know are being targeted in a Sextortion scheme.

  • Do NOT panic – help and support is available for you
  • Report the incident to your local police force by calling 101 
  • Do NOT pay the people who are blackmailing you. Once they know they can get money from you they will not stop exploiting you
  • Save the evidence; take screenshots, save messages, save images. Also save any URL links but do not click these links
  • If the communication has been happening on social media platforms then report it to those channels
  • Report it to your internet provide
  • Block all communication with the person targeting you.

Most social media platforms have rules against the sharing of intimate content without consent, so you should be able to get the material removed.

One important thing to remember is if you are a victim then you are NOT at fault and have nothing to be ashamed of. Reporting the Sextortion through the right channels is the best step to take to getting your intimate images removed. It is also important that if someone you know is a victim of Sextortion that you communicate they are not at fault for this situation. 

Links and Resources

Here are a range of helpful links and resources to signpost students to:

  • Take it down – a service to help remove online nude, partially nude, or sexually explicit photos and videos taken before you were 18
  • Report Remove –  a site for young people to report sexual image and videos of themselves, for help to remove them from the internet
  • Childline – Free, confidential support online and over the phone
  • Young Minds – mental health charity for children and young people 
  • CEOP Safety Centre – to report online sexual abuse and support young people who experience it