Have You Experienced Sexual Assault Or Abuse?
More than 1,200 sexual assault survivors helped since 2023.
More than 1,200 sexual assault survivors helped since 2023.

What is Sexual Extortion?

Sexual extortion, also known as sextortion, involves the use of coercion or threats to make the victim provide sexually explicit images, sexual favors, or money. Its victims can range from children to adults. Helping Survivors is here to provide essential resources to report sexual extortion and support recovery. By focusing on the tactics and effects of sexual extortion, parents and others can combat the impact of this malicious act.
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Survivor Advocate

Key Takeaways

  • Sexual extortion, also sometimes referred to as sextortion, involves coercing individuals into providing sexual favors or explicit content under the threat of exposure, public humiliation, or harm. It can take various forms, such as information exploitation, revenge porn, dating scams, and catfishing.
  • Victims of sexual extortion can experience physical, mental, and emotional effects, including insomnia, depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. They may also face financial consequences if they pay the extortionist to “prevent” the release of explicit material. Many bad actors will continue to financially extort the victim if they pay – which is why it is recommended to not pay or engage further with the individual.
  • Individuals who have or are experiencing sexual extortion should immediately seek assistance and guidance. Call a hotline like RAINN, VictimConnect, or the Cyber Civil Rights Collective to get personalized assistance for your situation.

Sexual extortion preys upon individuals by coercing them into providing sexual favors or explicit content under the threat of exposure, humiliation, or harm. From private information exploitation to revenge porn and dating scams, victims can fall prey to this heinous crime in numerous ways.

Helping Survivors helps those affected connect with resources to report the offense and recover from the abuse.

What is Sexual Extortion?

Sexual extortion, or sextortion, exploits individuals to coerce them into providing sexual favors or explicit content under the threat of exposure, public humiliation, or harm. This type of manipulation occurs both online in digital spaces and offline.

There are numerous forms of sexual extortion, such as the following:

information Exploitation

The perpetrator can access the victim’s private intimate photos through social engineering, hacking, or other methods.

Revenge Porn

After a consensual relationship, an ex may threaten to share explicit videos or images of their former partner unless they comply.

Dating Scams

Sometimes, the perpetrator builds a romantic relationship via an online dating platform. Once they have gained the person’s trust, they will use that content or information to blackmail them.


Often, a blackmailer will create a fake identity, usually online, to build someone’s trust. In turn, they may request that the individual share personal or explicit content, which can be used to extort them.

Current Statistics on Extortion and Demographics of Victims

Over the last two years, the number of reported sextortion cases has soared. In 2022, Homeland Security Investigations received a staggering 3 Thousand sextortion tips.

A concerning trend in sextortion focuses on boys aged 14 to 17. Adult predators masquerade as young girls and engage in romantic interactions with minors on gaming platforms, apps, and social media sites, intending to extort them.

Florida International University and the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative surveyed around 2,600 individuals. The survey revealed that adult men, young individuals, Black and Native American women, and LGBTQ individuals are particularly vulnerable to sextortion, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Technology Provides Easier Access to Victims

Blackmailers often use online platforms for malicious purposes, such as sexual extortion. Since many apps and websites provide anonymity, it is easier for these perpetrators to manipulate their victims without revealing their identities. Online forums, social media platforms, and dating apps are ideal environments for blackmailers to find and target victims.

Some examples of the types of messages that could lead to extortion include:

I’ve come across some intimate photos of you. If you don’t do what I want, I will share them.

I like you, but I need to trust you. Send me a nude photo, so I’ll feel comfortable talking to you.

I’ll post these intimate photos on social media unless you get back together with me.

These phrases may indicate that the individual is attempting to exploit a victim sexually.

Laws Against Sexual Exploitation

The federal law introduced by the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act of 2022 allows individuals to take legal action against those who share intimate images without consent. All states, except for Massachusetts and South Carolina, have enacted laws prohibiting the distribution of nonconsensual pornography.

The laws against sexual extortion differ from one jurisdiction to another. However, most of these laws cover cybercrime, harassment, revenge porn, and extortion. The penalties for those who commit these offenses range from fines to imprisonment.

Other Types of Extortion

While both crimes have an element of power and control over the victims, sexual extortion differs from traditional forms of blackmail.

Traditional extortion involves using threats of physical, property, or reputational harm to compel someone to pay off the blackmailer. This type of extortion is focused on monetary gain and does not involve using intimate or personal content to blackmail an individual.

If you are not sure where to turn, RAINN can help.

Call 800-656-HOPE (4673) to talk confidentially with a trained professional from RAINN.

They can put you in touch with local resources and organizations that can help in your healing journey.

What Are Sexual Extortion Tactics

Sexual extortion can occur in several ways, both in physical and digital spaces. Predators use many types of tactics, including:

Online grooming: While this tactic is associated with minor children, anyone can be victimized using these actions. Some perpetrators establish a fake relationship, gaining their victim’s trust. Afterward, they coerce a victim into providing explicit content or engaging in sexual activities.

Fake financial assistance: Abusers may offer financial aid or job opportunities but require sexual favors in return for their help.

Workplace exploitation: Someone in a position of power may force an employee or coworker into providing explicit content to maintain their job or obtain favors.

Relationship Extortion: Someone you are in a relationship, often an intimate partner, may try to misuse and exploit intimate photos either shared by the victim or taken without the victim’s consent consent.

Who engages in sexual exploitation? While these crimes are often conducted under a veil of anonymity, there are times when the perpetrator is known to the victim. These individuals can include:

Motivated by power, control, or financial gain, these predators threaten to share the material unless victims comply. Feeling fear, shame, and vulnerability, victims may submit to protect their reputation, relationships, or career.

Physical and Mental Effects of Sexual Extortion

Victims of extortion often experience both physical and mental effects. The threat of exposing personal information or intimate content can cause physical symptoms, such as:

  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Chronic pain

Sexual extortion can also have emotional effects, including:

  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Anxiety

These crimes often leave victims feeling powerless, ashamed, and humiliated, resulting in low self-esteem and self-confidence.

These cases can also have financial consequences. Some victims may pay the extortionist to prevent the release of explicit material. That can lead to financial strain or even bankruptcy. Additionally, the need for professional support, such as therapy or counseling, can add to the financial burden.

What To Do if You or Someone You Know Is a Victim of Sexual Extortion

Many victims of sexual exploitation never report the crime due to fear, shame, and worry about social judgment or retribution. They may experience guilt and self-blame, even though they are not at fault.

If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual extortion, seek help and report the crime to local law enforcement. Often, these predators have exploited numerous individuals. Reporting the incident allows law enforcement to arrest these perpetrators for their crimes.

Additionally, victims may want to seek counseling or therapy to help them emotionally deal with the situation. Organizations such as RAINN provide support services and confidential helplines for all individuals affected by sexual crimes.

Depending on where the crime occurred or the victim’s residence, some state statutes prohibit revenge porn and online harassment. All those laws may help in the criminal prosecution of these crimes. Sometimes, the victims can take the perpetrator to civil court to obtain other legal remedies, such as financial restitution for damages.

Helping Survivors provides a safe space for victims to access various resources and support services. Contact us to help make it easier to navigate the complexities of reporting the crime, pursuing justice, and seeking reparation. As a valuable ally, we will reinforce the message that you are not alone in your journey toward healing.

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