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Sextortion: What it is and what to do about it

‘Sextortion’ is a type of image-based abuse that can happen online. If you experience sextortion, there are things you can do and people who can help.

Two people texting on a mobile phone. First person says, "Pay me $500 or I send your nudes to all your family and friends. You have 30 mins." Second person replies, "What? Please don't do that! I don't have $500! Why are you doing this?"

Nudes, sexting and more 

It’s normal to be curious about sex and your sexuality, and to want to explore and experiment with it.

Sexting is becoming more and more common – but there are some challenges you need to be aware of, things you can do to stay safe, and people/places that can support you if things go wrong. 

Remember, if someone asks you for nude or sexual images/videos, “Nois always an acceptable answer, no matter what. It’s not ok for someone to pressure you to send this type of content – and anyone who genuinely cares for you will be ok with your “NO”.

Did you know? Intimate images/videos can be more easily used to abuse you if they clearly show your face, show identifying things like tattoos or birthmarks, or have identifying backgrounds (e.g. a jumper with a school logo on it in the background).

What is ‘sextortion’? 

‘Sextortion’ or 'sexual extortion' is a form of blackmail where someone tricks or pressures you into sending sexual images of yourself and then threatens to share the images unless you comply with their demands. Usually, these demands are for money, more images/videos, or sexual activity from you that you hadn’t offered or didn’t want to engage in.

Some early signs it might be sextortion:

  • Being asked to take your chat to a different app 
  • Friend or follow requests from randoms/people you don’t know in-person
  • Sexualised conversations and questions
  • Getting sexual images/videos really quickly from someone who asks you to send them similar images/videos of yourself
  • The person saying their webcam or microphone aren’t working
  • Signs that English might be a second language  

Types of sextortion

Some examples of online sextortion includes:

  • Someone ‘catfishes’ you – they pretend to be someone they’re not so they can scam you (they might send you a sexy pic they say is of them); if you send them pics/vids back, they then threaten to share these unless you pay them
  • Someone might say they’ve hacked you and have found intimate images or videos of you – they threaten to release the images unless you pay them
  • Someone tries to take sexual images of you without you knowing while you are on live stream or video (this is known as ‘capping’)
  • Someone ‘grooms’ you – they trick you into thinking you’re in a close relationship to get intimate images or videos of you; they then threaten you to get more or for sexual activity from you that you hadn’t offered to or didn’t want to engage in. They may sell your images/videos without you knowing.

Sextortion is a crime. Catfishing, grooming, threatening and blackmailing are all examples of inappropriate and harmful behaviours online.

Help! I’m being sextorted!

If you’re being sextorted, here’s what you should do: 

  • know that it's not your fault - even if you shared the intimate images or videos voluntarily with them in the first place. Sextortion can happen to anyone and no one deserves to be abused
  • do not send money, or more images/videos
  • do not keep chatting/responding to them
  • take screenshots/photos of the conversation (don't take photos/screenshots of the nudes/explicit videos themselves as this can be an offence if the person in them is under the age of 18)
  • keep a record of any social media details, such as account profiles, usernames, URLs, etc
  • cut off all contact and block them (only after you've taken screenshots)
  • tell a trustworthy adult
  • get in touch with Kids Helpline (under 25s)
  • report it

Did you know? Sextortion can be an ‘organised crime’ where people pretend to be an attractive young person online to get sexual images/videos from young people and then blackmail them. This can occur in a structured way and with the intent of making money from you and other children and young people.

Where to report sextortion

All ages - Report it to the platform/app/site it’s happening on as a first step – they generally have rules against sextortion and will take action to remove any content, and remove/block the people/accounts who are trying to sextort others. For guides on how to report to different platforms, view the eSafety Guides. These guides also provide advice on how to stay safe on platforms like Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and more.

Under 18s - Report to the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) where law enforcement officers work to protect children from online child sexual abuse.

Over 18s - You can report to ReportCyber. If you've reported to the platform/app/site and the platform doesn't help, you can also report to eSafety.

If you need any support, or help reporting, get in touch with Kids Helpline!

This content was last reviewed 18/07/2023

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