The following post is written by the team at Crisis Text Line, who provides free, 24/7 support to those in crisis. Their trained Crisis Counselors volunteer to provide active listening and collaborative problem-solving.

“From a hot moment to a cool calm” – that’s how Crisis Text Line describes the goal of each conversation we have with a person in crisis. But what does that mean, exactly? And what does that look like for a person dealing with sextortion?

From a Hot Moment…

A “hot moment” is that moment of crisis, when the emotions you’re experiencing feel too powerful to control. That looks differently for different people: for some, it’s paralyzing, leaving them feeling helpless; for others, it could be thoughts of hurting themselves.

… To a Cool Calm

Our goal is to bring the person in crisis to a “cool calm:” a place where they feel safe and in control. This doesn’t mean making the source of those difficult feelings go away completely; it’s about finding the skills and tools to cope effectively with the emotions.

The Conversation

Bringing someone dealing with sextortion to a cool calm can seem like a daunting task. Let these best practices from Crisis Text Line guide the conversation.

  1. Assess for risk. Any time you’re concerned that someone may be considering suicide, the most important thing you can do is ask directly whether they’re thinking about taking their own life. If they are, tell a trusted adult, and encourage them to text Crisis Text Line at 741741. If they’re in immediate risk of doing serious harm to themselves, take them to an emergency room, or find someone who can.
  2. Validate the feelings. Someone dealing with sextortion is likely to have a variety of scary thoughts and feelings running through their minds. Let them know that there’s no such thing as a “wrong” feeling: whatever emotions they’re experiencing are valid and real. In short, “it’s okay to not be okay.”
  3. Advice isn’t always welcome. Remember that your friend knows the situation better than anyone else, and that they’re probably hearing “should’ve”s from all directions. Telling them that they shouldn’t’ve sent compromising photos, for example? Not helpful. Hindsight is 20/20. Listening to what they’re dealing with in the moment is the most helpful thing you can do.
  4. It’s not their fault! This one is simple: the person experiencing this may need a gentle reminder that what happened isn’t their fault.
  5. Be careful not to vilify. The person who perpetrated the sextortion clearly did something wrong in breaking your friend’s trust. It can be tempting to show your allegiance to your friend by attacking the perpetrator, but it’s important to be mindful that the relationship your friend has with them may be more complicated than you realize. You can take your friend’s side without stepping into a complex interpersonal dynamic.
  6. Offer resources. There are places for your friend to turn, so it’s important to know about them! Check out Thorn’s resource list for more information.

Helping a friend in crisis can be intimidating, especially when it comes to a topic as new and unfamiliar as sextortion. Remember that Crisis Text Line is always available to provide support: text THORN to 741741.