What is sexual extortion mean

Deborah C. Escalante

!Creation Date: 09/15/22> <!Author: Arizona Legislative Council> <!Typist: dbupdate>

13-1428. Sexual extortion; classification; definition

A. A person commits sexual extortion by knowingly communicating a threat with the intent to coerce another person to do any of the following:

1. Engage in sexual contact or sexual intercourse.

2. Allow the other person’s genitals, anus or female breast to be photographed, filmed, videotaped or digitally recorded.

3. Exhibit the other person’s genitals, anus or female breast.

B. Sexual extortion is a class 3 felony and the person is not eligible for suspension of sentence, probation, pardon or release from confinement on any basis except as specifically authorized by section 31-233, subsection A or B until the sentence imposed by the court has been served or commuted. If the victim is under fifteen years of age, sexual extortion is a class 2 felony and is punishable pursuant to section 13-705.

C. For the purposes of this section, “communicating a threat” means a threat to do any of the following:

1. Damage the property of the other person.

2. Harm the reputation of the other person.

3. Produce or distribute a photograph, film, videotape or digital recording that depicts the other person engaging in sexual contact or sexual intercourse or the exhibition of the other person’s genitals, anus or female breast.

  About Sexual Extortion  

What is Sexual Extortion?

Sexual extortion is a growing form of sexual exploitation—often facilitated by technology in this current digital age. Sexual extortion happens when a person abuses their power or authority to coerce sexual acts, images, or videos from a victim.
 

Examples of Sexual Extortion:

  • Individuals threatening to share harmful information unless a person submits to sexual acts or provides sexual images
  • Landlords withholding housing or repairs unless a person submits to sexual acts or provides sexual images/Landlords lowering rent in exchange for sexual acts or images
  • Teachers offering better grades in exchange for sexting with students/or threatening failing grades if person does not comply
  • Judges offering more favorable outcomes in exchange for sexual acts/or threatening harsher penalties if person does not comply
  • Police officers lowering charges in exchange for sexual acts or images/or increasing charges if person does not comply
  • Corrections officers providing privileges in exchange of sexual acts or images or threatening to withhold such privileges/services if person does not comply
  • Employer withholding a client or promotion unless a person provides sexual acts or images/or promising a reward if person provides acts or images
  • Treatment provider threatening to include false information in a file unless the person engages in sexual acts/or says they’ll ignore a “dirty urine test” in exchange for sexual acts or images
     

We all know victims of sextortion. They are a neighbor, the cashier at the grocery store, the server at our favorite restaurant, our son or daughter texting with friends, a colleague at work, a classmate, or team member. There are victims of all ages and backgrounds.

While sexual extortion happens in multiple settings and across many populations, victims often share the experience of feeling powerless and caught in a Catch-22, where there are no good options:

  • Either engage in this sexual act, image, or video, or face a punishment or loss of reputation, a service, or other thing of value
  • Get a reward or service, but only if you engage in this sexual act, image, or video
     

Victims often experience negative physical, mental health, economic, and reputational consequences as a result of sextortion. While every survivor is different, many feel alone, scared, ashamed, and fear that no one will believe them.

In many instances, current laws either insufficiently or do not address the acts of sextortion which allow these crimes and their perpetrators to go under-punished or unpunished at all. Victims are left with no redress. Prosecutors and courts need explicit statutory authority to hold perpetrators accountable.

It is time to shed light on sextortion and pass legislation that will enable Pennsylvania to keep pace with the digital age that often facilitates this crime. Sexual sextortion legislation will enable us to hold offenders accountable and help victims in accessing justice.
 

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What Would Sexual Extortion Legislation Do?

Senators Judy Schwank and Kim Ward as well as Representatives Tedd Nesbit and Joanna McClinton have introduced a strong, bipartisan solution to a serious crime. SB 337 and HB 1402 would close a loophole in Pennsylvania laws and make sexual extortion a crime. The bills would establish penalties that match the severity of the crime.

§ 13-1428. Sexual extortion; classification; definition

A. A person commits sexual extortion by knowingly communicating a threat with the intent to coerce another person to do any of the following:

1. Engage in sexual contact or sexual intercourse.

2. Allow the other person’s genitals, anus or female breast to be photographed, filmed, videotaped or digitally recorded.

3. Exhibit the other person’s genitals, anus or female breast.

B. Sexual extortion is a class 3 felony unless the victim is under fifteen years of age in which case sexual extortion is a class 2 felony punishable pursuant to § 13-705.

C. For the purposes of this section, “communicating a threat” means a threat to do any of the following:

1. Damage the property of the other person.

2. Harm the reputation of the other person.

3. Produce or distribute a photograph, film, videotape or digital recording that depicts the other person engaging in sexual contact or sexual intercourse or the exhibition of the other person’s genitals, anus or female breast.

An FBI special agent defines sextortion and provides tips to avoid falling prey to online predators.

Video Transcript

Various people: What is sextortion?

Sextortion? Um…extortion related to sex-related crimes?

Sex for… not for money.

Do favors for sex, which makes me think it’s the new word for sexual harassment?

So the question is what is sextortion. I’ve never heard of that word before.

What is sextortion? Somebody kind of blackmailing somebody for sexual favors?

Sextortion to me would be someone who is forced against their will to perform sexual acts? Or blackmailing them for sexual favors?

Special Agent: Sextortion is a serious crime that occurs when someone threatens to distribute your private and sensitive material if you don’t provide them images of a sexual nature, sexual favors, or money.

The perpetrator may also threaten to harm your friends or relatives by using information they have obtained from your electronic devices unless you comply with their demands.

I am a special agent with the FBI, and I investigate violent crimes against children.

I want you to know that sextortion can have devastating effects on young victims from all walks of life, and it is easy to become a victim.

Online perpetrators might gain your trust by pretending to be someone they are not.

They lurk in chat rooms and record young people who post or live-stream sexually explicit images and videos of themselves, or they may hack into your electronic devices using malware to gain access to your files and control your web camera and microphone without you knowing it.

Here are some things you can do to avoid becoming a victim:

Never send compromising images of yourself to anyone, no matter who they are—or who they say they are.
Do not open attachments from people you do not know.
Turn off your electronic devices and web cameras when you are not using them.
If you are receiving sextortion threats, you are not alone.

It is likely the perpetrator is an adult pretending to be a teenager, and you are just one of the many victims being targeted by the same person.

Do not be afraid to talk to an adult and to call the FBI.

Help us find these criminals and stop them from damaging young lives.

If you believe you’re a victim of sextortion, or know someone else who is, call your local FBI office or toll-free at 1-800-CALL-FBI.

Non-physical forms of coercion to extort sexual favors from the victim

Sextortion (a portmanteau of sex and extortion) employs non-physical forms of coercion to extort sexual favors from the victim. Sextortion refers to the broad category of sexual exploitation in which abuse of power is the means of coercion, as well as to the category of sexual exploitation in which threatened release of sexual images or information is the means of coercion.[1]

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As used to describe an abuse of power, sextortion is a form of corruption[2] in which people entrusted with power – such as government officials, judges, educators, law enforcement personnel, and employers – seek to extort sexual favors in exchange for something within their authority to grant or withhold.[3][4][5][6][7] Examples of such abuses of power include: government officials who request sexual favors to obtain licenses or permits,[8][9] teachers who trade good grades for sex with students,[10][11] and employers who make providing sexual favors a condition of obtaining a job.[12]

Sextortion also refers to a form of blackmail in which sexual information or images are used to extort money or sexual favors from the victim.[13][14] Social media and text messages are often the source of the sexual material and the threatened means of sharing it with others. An example of this type of sextortion is where people are extorted with a nude image of themselves they shared on the Internet through sexting. They are later coerced into giving money, or performing sexual acts with the person doing the extorting or are coerced into posing or performing sexually on camera, thus producing hardcore pornography.[15][14] This method of blackmail is also frequently used to out LGBT people who keep their true sexual orientation private.[16]

A video highlighting the dangers of sextortion has been released by the National Crime Agency[17] in the UK to educate people, especially given the fact that blackmail of a sexual nature may cause humiliation to a sufficient extent to cause the victim to take their own life,[18] in addition to other efforts to educate the public on the risks of sextortion.[19]

Webcam blackmail

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Sextortion through the use of webcams is also a concern, especially for those who use webcams for flirting and cybersex.[19][18] Often this involves a cybercriminal posing as someone else – such as an attractive person – initiating communication of a sexual nature with the victim (about 95% of victims are male).[18] Often, the cybercriminal simply shows the victim a pre-recorded video of a performer from a cybersex webcam site which they are sufficiently familiar with, then messages the victim at points in the video where the performer appears to be typing on the keyboard, to give the illusion that the performer in the video is messaging them.[20] The victim is then persuaded to undress in front of a webcam, and may also be persuaded to engage in sexual behaviour, such as masturbation.[20] The video is recorded by the cybercriminal, who then reveals their true intent and demands money or other services (such as more explicit images of the victim, in cases of online predation), and threatening to publicly release the video to video services like YouTube and send it to family members and friends of the victim if they do not comply. Sometimes threats to make false allegations of paedophilia against the victim are made as well.[20] This is known as webcam blackmail.[21] An increase in webcam blackmails have been reported, and it affects both young and old, male and female alike.[22][23] Webcam blackmail is also connected with webcam trolling.[24]

History

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An early use of the term appears in print in 1950 in California.[25]

Since early 2009, The Institute for Responsible Online and Cell-Phone Communication (iroc2.org) began warning the public about the trend of “Sextortion” via live events and websites including www.sextortion.org. This is a trend that grew based on the birth and growth of the trend known as “sexting” whereby compromising images and videos were being shared by individuals without a real understanding of the short and long term consequences of sharing “private” content on digital tools designed for sharing.

In 2009, the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ), in partnership with the Association of Women Judges in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Philippine Women Judges Association, and the Tanzania Women Judges Association, and with funding from the Government of the Netherlands, launched a three-year program on “Stopping the Abuse of Power through Sexual Exploitation: Naming, Shaming, and Ending Sextortion.”[26] Presentations on sextortion were made to judges attending the 2010[27] and 2012 Biennial World Conferences of the IAWJ[28][29] and to NGOs attending the 2011[30] and 2012 meetings of the UN Commission on the Status of Women.[3]

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There are also scientific studies describing the prevalence of sextortion in Europe, etc. in the Czech Republic (2017).[31]

In China, there are cases of sextortion as part of predatory lending to students.[32]

In 2022, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection noted a tripling of cases compared to previous years and a change away from female victims being sextorted for images towards young male victims being sextorted for money.[14]

Incidents

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Incidents of sextortion have been prosecuted under various criminal statutes, including as extortion,[33][34][35] bribery,[36] breach of trust,[37] corruption,[38] sexual coercion,[34][39] sexual exploitation,[15] sexual assault,[35] child pornography,[35][40] and computer hacking and wiretapping.[41]

  • Anthony Stancl of Wisconsin, then 18, received 15 years in prison in February 2010 after he posed as a girl on Facebook to trick male high school classmates into sending him nude cell phone photos, which he then used to extort them for homosexual sex.[35]
  • Jonathan Vance of Auburn, Alabama, was sentenced to 18 years in prison in April 2010 after sending threatening e-mails on Facebook and MySpace extorting nude photos from more than 50 women in three states.[15]
  • Luis Mijangos was sentenced to six years in prison in September 2011 for hacking into dozens of computers, stealing personal information and demanding naked images from female victims in exchange for not releasing the stolen information. Forty-four of the victims were under age 18.[42]
  • Isaac Baichu, a federal immigration officer in New York, was sentenced to

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    years in prison in July 2010 after demanding sex from a 22-year-old Colombian woman in exchange for a green card.[39]

  • Steve Ellis, an immigration adjudicator in Toronto, was sentenced to 18 months in jail in July 2010 after telling a South Korean woman he would approve her refugee claim in exchange for sex.[37]
  • Michael Ngilangwa, a secondary school teacher in Tanzania, was sentenced to pay a fine or serve one year in prison in June 2011 after demanding sexual favors from his student in exchange for favorable exam results.[38]
  • Christopher Patrick Gunn, 31, of Montgomery, Alabama was indicted for using fake Facebook profiles to extort nude photos and videos from underage girls in numerous states.[40] He got 35 years in federal prison after being convicted.[43]
  • In May 2010, the police of the Basque Country in Spain arrested a 24-year-old man accused of blackmailing a woman he met on an online chatroom and threatening to distribute nude photographs of her from her webcam.[44]
  • 13-year-old Amanda Todd was blackmailed by an online friend into exposing her breasts to him on her webcam. Over the next few years he sent the screenshots to people she personally knew, resulting in her developing mental health issues, suffering bullying (both online and in real life) and changing schools several times. She committed suicide by hanging on October 10, 2012, at the age of 15.
  • A video of the Chinese Communist Party official Lei Zhengfu having sex with a woman was a part of a sextortion plot by a criminal gang.[45][46]
  • In 2013, Daniel Perry committed suicide hours after falling victim to webcam blackmail.[47]
  • Anton Martynenko was sentenced to 38 years in a federal prison, after victimizing over 155 teenage boys by making around 50 fake accounts on Facebook, often those of young women, to convince the victims to send him nude photos.[48] The accounts were also used to spread the explicit photos and videos of the victims to their high school classmates, with one boy’s photos being sold on the dark web. In addition, three boys were blackmailed into meeting up with Martynenko and performing sex acts with him; two of the victims later committed suicide. Martynenko is considered the largest producer of child pornography in Minnesota history.[49]

References

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