Europol Awareness campaign on online child sexual coercion and extortion
Europol campaign video
ONLINE SEXUAL COERCION AND EXTORTION IS A CRIME. #SayNo!
Has someone you have only met online asked you to send them sexual photos and/or videos, or perform sexual acts via webcam? Is this person asking you to keep your contact secret, threatening to post the photos or videos of you on the internet or share them with your friends and family if you don’t send more or pay money?
This is a crime. It is called online sexual coercion and extortion. (link to Page Crime Areas).
If this happens to you: #SayNo! Look for help. Tell a friend or an adult you trust or report it to the police. You are not alone.
Offenders may try and approach you online to get sexual photos or videos of you. To achieve this, they will try to make you feel special by pretending to be your friend. They might say nice things to you to gain your trust. They may also lure you into sexualised conversation and performing sexual acts online. Once they get hold of your sexual photos or videos, they may demand you send more, or ask you for money, threatening to post the images on the internet or share them with your friends and family if you don’t do as they say. They can be very clever at making you feel guilty about what has happened to stop you from getting help.
Although this behaviour can also exist in a peers’ environment, this advice focuses on criminal activities conducted by adults. This person is not someone you should trust. This is an offender and should be prosecuted. Many victims don’t seek help or report it to the police as they are embarrassed about the material the perpetrator has, or because they are unaware that they are victims of crime.
HOW THE CRIME WORKS
When targeting a minor, offenders have two main motivations:
A sexual interest in children, where the objective of the extortive exchange is the procurement of sexual material (photos and/or videos depicting the child) or a sexual encounter offline;
An economic interest, where the objective is to gain financially from the extortion.
Europol campaign press release
Police across Europe issue warning about the online coercion and extortion of children
The Hague, the Netherlands
Often referred to as ‘sextortion’ or ‘webcam blackmailing’, the online coercion and extortion of children – a form of digital blackmail where sexual information or images are used to extort sexual material, sexual favours or money, has skyrocketed in the past years, but remains largely underreported.
How the crime works
In a report released today by Europol, it is revealed that victims as young as 7 years old are being targeted online.
When targeting a minor, offenders have two main motivations:
- A sexual interest in children, where the objective of the extortive exchange is the procurement of sexual material (photos and/or videos depicting the child) or a sexual encounter offline;
- An economic interest, where the objective is to gain financially from the extortion.
Based upon information collected by the US National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children’s CyberTipline, Europol’s report reveals that female child victims are being blackmailed more significantly for sexually explicit material (84%) compared to their male counterparts (53%). The latter are more so targeted for financial gain (32% compared to 2% for female child victims), a relatively new trend in the field of online child sexual abuse. Another such trend is the perpetrator’s demand for the targeted child to include other children, such as siblings or peers, in the images/videos. In such cases, even those children who use safe practices in the online environment or younger children who may not use the Internet yet can be targeted this way.
The personal and psychological toll on the victims of this crime is not to be underestimated: a number of children have reportedly committed suicide in the last few years after falling victim to this crime. Many acts of online coercion and extortion of children go unreported as a result of the embarrassment regarding the material provided to the perpetrator or lack of awareness by victims that they have been subject to a criminal offense.
‘Say No’ awareness raising campaign
In response to this worrying phenomenon, the European law enforcement community has joined forces with partners from the private sector to launch a campaign, #Say NO”, supported by Europol, to give advice to those who have been, or are likely to be targeted, and to strengthen reporting and support mechanisms.
The campaign includes a short film, available in all EU languages, which helps people to recognise a potential sextortion approach, provides online advice and highlights the importance of reporting the crime to the competent national authorities.
Steven Wilson, Head of Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre, said: “Children are increasingly using the online environment to communicate and form relationships and this should be considered as a natural part of their development. However it is our collective responsibility to educate them on the threats they may experience and also protect them to make the online environment as safe as possible. Where something untoward happens online we should provide clear and effective reporting and support mechanisms so they understand where to turn to for assistance.”
Are you a victim? Get help. Report it. We are here.
Europol’s message to those who are targeted is ‘don’t pay and don’t feel embarrassed to report it to the police’. If someone threatens you with sharing sexual photos or videos of you unless you send them more or pay them money, follow these steps:
- Don’t share more, don’t pay anything.
- Look for help. You are not alone.
- Preserve evidence. Don’t delete anything.
- Stop the communication. Block the person.
- Report it to the police.
For more advice on how to react if you, your child or someone that trusts you is potentially a victim of online sexual coercion and extortion, please visit our dedicated webpage.