The following post was written by Signy Arnason, Associate Executive Director, Canadian Centre for Child Protection.
Have you seen a naked mole rat? The little-known African rodent is pink, hairless and three to four inches in size and – as our #dontgetsextorted campaign tells teenage boys – it looks a lot like that thing they were about to send a photo of, but it won’t get them sextorted.
Wait – what’s sextortion? It’s blackmail – when someone threatens to send a sexual image or video of you to other people if you don’t pay them (often the case for boys) or provide more sexual content (often the case for girls).
At the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (Canadian Centre), we’ve seen an 89% increase in the past two years* in online sextortion cases among teenage boys through the operation Cybertip.ca, Canada’s tipline for reporting the online sexual exploitation of children. The approach by this group of offenders is startlingly similar – pretending to be a teen girl who makes contact and then eventually asks for nudes. What teenage boy isn’t going to go for that?
The problem is that it’s not a teenage girl asking – it’s an adult posing as one, sometimes even with pre-recorded images or videos of a girl that they use to entice the victim into sending their own naked images. Once the offender receives the requested nudes, they threaten to share it with everyone the victim knows if they don’t comply with their demands, usually for cash or, sometimes, for more images.
At this point, the victim gets desperate. Imagine the mortification of having to tell an adult what you’ve done – not likely. Instead, understandably, teens want to and think they can handle it on their own. So they send more images, thinking this will satisfy the demands and make the situation go away. Instead, they arm the offender with more information and ammunition to continue the sextortion. This creates the really desperate situations we see reported to Cybertip.ca and that, in the most extreme and tragic instances, lead to suicide.
This is why an ugly little rodent is so important.
The ubiquitous use of social media and online connections to unknown individuals makes sextortion a very real threat to young people. To help parents and educators get teens talking about this not-entirely comfortable issue, the Canadian Centre’s naked mole rat video reaches teenage boys where they’re at, with humour and a little innuendo. The accompanying www.dontgetsextorted.ca has naked mole rat gifs and stickers available for download that are a fun and funny alternative to send when asked for nudes. It also has a complete, free lesson plan for educators.
You can help combat sextortion – check out dontgetsextorted.ca, show the video to the teens in your life, and share the video on social media.
*Based on reported incidents of online sextortion to the Canadian Centre for Child Protection in 2015 and 2016, compared to 2013 and 2014, via www.cybertip.ca, Canada’s tipline to report online sexual exploitation of children.
If you’re experiencing sextortion, remember: you’re not alone. The good news is that you can handle this, you’re going to be okay. So, take a few deep breaths and check out some resources here.
If you need help now, text “THORN” to 741741, and a trained Crisis Text Line counselor will be there to support you anonymously.