Sextortion and Revenge Porn: Disturbing Online Realities plaguing young women globally



    1440831202391.jpg By Prabalta Rijal
    Sextortion and Revenge Porn: Disturbing Online Realities plaguing young women globally

    Nov 6, Kathmandu: Dating sites and chatting websites have become anonymous to people looking for intimacy outside their marriage or relationship. Though there are a few singles looking for love a lot of people on these sites are only looking to sell nude photos and make money by allowing others to watch them live.

    Free chat sites and apps like chat-avenue.com and chat.com, Snapchat, Kik, Twitter, Instagram, Whisper, Tumblr, YouTube, Vine, hitwe, etc have become hubs for sex addicts and people preying on young girls, especially teenagers who really don't know better.

    Cyber bullying and more specifically sextortion and revenge porn are on the rise as people seek to blackmail young girls after they break up with them, or to get them into bed with them. "It first starts out like a normal conversation and then the conversations get intense and one thing leads to the next until young girls end up undressing in live camera that is viewed either by one person or an entire group, they have no control over who is viewing them and are at times viewed and recorded by men who later threaten to go public with the videos and images," said Angel (name changed to protect victim identity), who became a victim of cyber bullying at the age of 23.

    Angel's sextortion experience is slightly different; a guy she met on a chat app used her photos to blackmail her into getting into bed with him. After a month of getting to know each other and getting intimate online, he coaxed her into meeting him at a lodge. " At first I took it lightly all my friends had boyfriends and he was mine, we had gotten intimate online, so this was no big deal but later he would show up outside my office during office time and demand that I have sex with him. He wasn't ready to get into a committed relationship but would force me for sex," she said.

    Things went from bad to worse as he started getting more demanding and one day when she couldn't take it anymore she  walked out on him, three days later he emailed her photos she had sent him and threatened to post the videos and photos online, if she denied him sex. "He would call me whenever he wanted and would demand that I meet him, if I didn’t he would threaten to upload my photos online," she said.

    During this period Angel went into depression, she had turned into a complete puppet and was being tortured psychologically and physically by this man but was unable to speak out against him.  She would spend all night in tears as she couldn’t tell anyone about this, her parents wanted her to get married into a respectable family, it was a dream they had for her ever since she could remember.She did everything this man wanted; she was even forced to sleep with his best friend one night. And according to her, this went on for over a year and even after he got married to another woman.

    "Even after he was married, he would tell me to meet him at a lodge in Thamel, where he would hire a room for the day and would spend a couple of hours with me, sometimes his friend would also come over," she said, it was only after she realized during one of their so called dates that he had deleted all her photos and videos out of fear that his wife and family would eventually find out.

    "I found out by mistake, I was in the bathroom inside a room of the lodge that we usually went to. When he entered the room that day he was on the phone with his friend and was talking about having to delete my photos and that his friend now needed to take my photos. He thought I hadn’t yet arrived, as we never entered the room together, but I had reached the lodge early that day and was in the bathroom. I figured he no longer had anything to hold me to, so I dashed out of the bathroom and out the door, "she said.

    Though Angel eventually got lucky, she had been raped and used by this man for over a year, and he still had intentions of blackmailing her into sleeping with him, although he was married. "I felt like a hoe, only I wasn’t paid for it, I didn’t want to sleep with him or his friend, but I was forced to just to save myself and my family from public humiliation, I just wanted to kill myself, I feel so unclean," she said, shuddering at the thought of it.

    According to her, if anyone in her family ever found out they would disown her, for bringing shame into the family. "My parents are very conservative, my father sent me to Kathmandu only because I promised to marry the man they choose for me," she said.

    Research shows that revenge porn and sextortion have become serious global problems and it is not just young adults like Angel who fall victim to it, people over the age of 40 too, have been victimized, in fact according to a study by Clare McGlynn and Erika Rackley on Image based sexual abuse vengeful ex-lovers don’t have to look very far to upload and share explicit images without the consent of their former girlfriends. There are over 3,000 websites dedicated to revenge porn. 

    "Threats and blackmail to reveal intimate photos are common within abusive relationships. For some women within minority ethnic communities, coercion and blackmail is particularly threatening, with possible consequences including getting disowned, ostracized, or in the worst case scenario, getting killed," they said in their research paper on Research Spotlight.

    According to them, many victims of such abuse suffer extreme mental distress, "with some attempting and committing suicide. Many fear direct physical attacks after their personal details are posted online, together with the images which are often accompanied by comments encouraging further abuse. Some victims find their livelihoods at risk when employers find the images, with others unable to get work when their online profile is dominated by intimate images, sometimes on porn sites."

    Angel was only looking for love, but she was victimized and used. Like her, there are millions of young women out there across the world, who are being ill-treated by such people. For instance, a man in the US hacked into women's computers using malicious software which gave them access into their computers and used images saved in their computers to blackmail them. Out of the 31 people he victimized he also victimized a juvenile still in high school, he hacked her computer, through her friend and recorded her having web sex with her teenage boyfriend, and saved nearly 3000 images of her to his computer.  He also stole financial information of the girl's parents and victimized the entire family. 

    According to a study by La Trobe University Australia, the reason laws fail to protect victims in most cases is because the trend has newly emerged and become so popular so quickly that there aren’t adequate laws specifically criminalizing these acts and hence victims have limited access to justice and most people even today are just too quick to raise fingers at victims.

    Is There a Solution?

    According to researchers, it is important that governments exercise automatic anonymity of the victim for all complaints as a lot of women especially young women tend to cave into the demands of sextortionists out of fear that they will be exposed. Clare McGlynn and Erika Rackley in their study state that the law should cover offenders sharing images for financial gain, for a ‘laugh’ or from hacked or stolen computers/phones and extend the law to cover reckless intention to cause distress. The law should also cover threats to distribute personal images and visuals without consent and introduce a statutory civil law remedy to provide victims with alternative options.

    Tips to Victims: International Criminal Police Organization
    What is Sextortion: Sextortion is defined as blackmail in which sexual information or images are used to extort sexual favors and/or money from the victim.

    This online blackmail is often conducted by sophisticated organized criminal networks operating out of business-like locations similar to call centres.
    Common Methods: 
    Though there is no one method by which criminal target their victims, many individuals are targeted through websites including social media, dating, webcam or adult pornography sites.

    Criminals often target hundreds of individuals around the world simultaneously, in an attempt to increase their chances of finding a victim.

    How does it happen?
    The blackmailer might assume the identity of an attractive man or woman then, after gaining the victim’s trust, will record footage of the victim in the nude or performing a sexual act.
    The blackmailer threatens to circulate this footage to the victim’s friends or post it online unless a certain amount of money is paid.

    In another method, the engagement between the victim and the criminal is interrupted by a child appearing on the screen during the sex act.
    The victim then receives a demand, often appearing to come from a police agency, stating that an investigation will be launched unless the victim pays.

    What to do if you believe you are being targeted?
    Immediately cease all contact with the individual and report the matter to your local police and online service provider. If the blackmail is occurring through a social network, also alert the administrator.
    Do not pay the money which is being demanded.



































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