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Law Enforcement Discuss Sextortion Awareness with Community Members

Alejandra Palacios
Updated: December 03, 2019 10:31 PM

City, state, and police officials hosted a community discussion on sextortion Tuesday evening at the Hermantown Police Department. 

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Sextortion is described as a criminal act and form of sexual exploitation. It involves coercing a minor by using or threatening to use sexually explicit videos or images previously obtained of them in order to get additional ones.

FBI specialists who attended the meeting warned people about the growing concern of sextortion. They started the discussion by mentioning real case examples in the state. Perpetrators are often times adult males. 

Many of the perpetrators reach out to kids, the number one target, via social media. The perpetrators pretend to be a modeling agency or a friend and develop a bond with the victim.

Then they start asking for videos and pictures that may escalate to sexually explicit ones. They may even have video chats with the victim and secretly record them. Or also ask for their social media account passwords to get full access to them. In return, perpetrators promise to send pictures of themselves or promise other things. If they don't get their way, the perpetrators may start threatening the victim.

They obtain details on the victim's life and use that against them. Some go as far as to threaten to harm the victim or their family members. 

The number one victims are underage girls. The perpetrator's objective is to get more explicit pictures and videos, obtain money, or have sex with the victim by meeting them in person. 

Unfortunately, many kids don't say anything to parents because they think they'll go to jail or get in trouble. That's why bringing awareness around this is important.

"I think the main thing that we wanted to bring to the community was that we need to get the word out. It's an issue locally to nationally, and the more we talk about it, the more we learn about it, the more prevention," said Leah Stauber, Assistant St. Louis County Attorney.

Police say victims experience psychological, physical, and emotional trauma. Many have died by suicide as a result. 

Sextortion can be ongoing for years. Kids involved in a sextortion situation have increased drop out rates. 

That's why parents are encouraged to talk with their kids and let them know to be careful about what they share and who they friend online. Also reminding kids to never assume anything is private and that whatever they post or send online will never go away. 

Police also encourage parents to have parental control on devices and learn about the apps or social media sites their kids use. If something doesn't feel right, encourage kids to talk to them or an adult they trust. 

Parents are encouraged to limit or closely monitor phone and computer use. Also to know the passwords to the devices their kids use,  and having security measures on computers. Some other important tips include to remind kids to use strong passwords and to not share them with any strangers, turn off the computer and web cam when not in use, and don't open attachments from unknown senders. 

Some warning signs of kids who may be in a sextortion situation include withdrawal from family members and social media, isolation, change in friends, overly protective of phone, or defensive when questioned of secret phone use.

If you're in a sextortion situation, report it to police or the FBI immediately. Make sure you save and write down as much evidence as you can on the sextortion incident. 

Some resources are listed below:

FBI: www.fbi.gov/stopsextortion

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: www.missingkids.org/theissues/sextortion

NetSmartz: www.missingkids.org/NetSmartz

Credits

Alejandra Palacios

Copyright 2019 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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