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“I thought we were friends”: A Sextortion Story

June 20, 2023

3 Minute Read

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Content Warning!

At Thorn, we regularly discuss the technology we build to defend children from sexual abuse.

However, it’s important to remember that at the core of our work are real children, vulnerable and scared, who are subjected to unimaginably difficult situations.

In the interest of helping us all remember the human side of this struggle, we’re sharing Jayden’s story.

“Jayden” is not a real child, but his story is based on true and all too common events, woven together from the experiences of numerous victims of online grooming and sextortion.

Take a deep breath, pause, and know that you can click away at any time.


Jayden’s Story

Meet Jayden. He’s 12 years old. He’s on his school soccer team and loves hanging out with his friends and playing Minecraft. 

A few weeks ago, he made a new friend, Amber, who seems to be a bit older than him and who he only knows from the Minecraft community. 

The two became fast friends, meeting up online to play together daily in their shared virtual universe. 

Jayden looks forward with giddy anticipation to meeting Amber online each day and is beginning to develop a crush.






At home, Jayden has become withdrawn and depressed. He spontaneously quit his soccer team and hasn’t played Minecraft in weeks. His coach keeps trying to get in touch and his parents keep asking him what’s wrong. 

At first, his friends tease him at school – but once they see how upset he is, they try to cheer him up. It doesn’t work.

He pushes them all away and withdraws further each day.

One day, Jayden’s mom discovers a series of cuts on his arm and realizes he’s been harming himself. 

Jayden is lost. And it keeps getting worse.

Stories like Jayden’s are unfortunately growing more common every day. It’s a stark reminder that behind the fun and connection provided by video games and social media platforms, there can be very real threats.


Stop Sextortion – Get Help

Dealing with sextortion is scary and overwhelming. When we talk to people who have gone through this and come out on the other side, they often say, “I wish I had reached out sooner.”

Do not pay perpetrators or otherwise comply with their demands. While it may seem like giving in will make the problem go away, often it just emboldens the perpetrator to continue and increase their demands.

If you or someone you know are being threatened or “blackmailed” online, here’s what you can do

  1. Know that this is not your fault and you are not alone.
  2. Take control and stop responding immediately. Get help instead of paying money or otherwise complying with the blackmailer. Cooperating or paying rarely stops their threats. 
  3. Talk with someone you trust. Text “THORN” to 741-741 to confidentially speak with a trained counselor.
  4. Save everything. Block the blackmailer, but do not delete your profile or messages.
  5. Report sextortion to the platform. This removal guide has steps to make reports on many major platforms.
  6. Report sextortion to NCMEC’s Cybertipline at and 
  7. Change all of your passwords. 
  8. Remember that it will be ok, and there is hope to get to the other side.

Parents: let your kids know that sextortion can make people feel isolated and scared. Encourage them to reach out to their friends and let them know they’ll always have their back. Remember, you are not alone in this.


Additional Resources

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