In 2017, Thorn launched a sextortion research survey. The number of responses from individuals who have experienced sextortion was shocking. We gained valuable insight about this real-life harm from over 1,600 victims. Reading first-hand accounts of what sextortion victims experience may be difficult, but it’s how we’ll shed light on this crime that hides in DMs and private online spaces.
What Happens In Our Digital World Has Real-Life Impact
Sextortion can have a devastating impact on victims, and it can happen to anyone. One in three surveyed didn’t tell anybody. One in eight moved because they feared for their safety.
“It felt like someone was not only invading my privacy, but also mentally (and almost physically) assaulting me when I saw the images go public.” – Female, 21, Thorn survey
We asked survivors what they would say to others going through a similar situation.
Three key pieces of advice for sextortion victims:
- Blame perpetrators, not yourself. Your trust was broken and that is not your fault.
- Have perspective about the situation. Even if it feels like the end of the world, it is not.
- Tell your family and friends so they can help you, and help protect others by talking about your experience.
“Reaching out is the best thing you can do. The people around you want what is best for you, they may be angry at first, but in the end, they will not love you any less… They might even gain some respect for your courage.” – Female, 18, Thorn survey
We want every single person to hear their advice and know the common ways sextortion happens so that they can recognize if a situation starts to feel off. We live in a digital world, and the realities of digital sexuality are complicated. When these situations happen, it is incredibly important to remember that it is not your fault. Having your trust broken is painful, and the people threatening you are the ones doing something wrong. Addressing sextortion is tough, but the more we raise awareness about the ways sextortion happens, the better. Giving voice to victims’ stories is a great place to start.
Ashley Reynolds is a sextortion survivor and has spoken about her story in several states and was invited by the FBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to help spread the word about sextortion. Ashley shared her story with Thorn to help other victims.
What Can You Do?
We can all make a difference. Sextortion is a terrible crime, and people going through it are usually too scared to tell their friends. Luckily, you can help your friends even before they need it. Tell your closest friends today that you’ll be there for them no matter what. There is no shame because we always put our friends first. And if you know someone going through this, support them. Show them our resources so that they can get the help they need.
“My mom told me it wouldn’t be the end of the world if it did happen and we would get through it.” – Female, 18, Thorn survey
If you or someone you know is being threatened online, know that this is not your fault, you are not alone, and there is hope to get to the other side.
- Make a report to NCMEC’s Cybertipline at report.cybertip.org
- Reach out to NCMEC for support at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-THELOST
- Learn more at stopsextortion.com
If you need help now, text “THORN” to 741741, and a trained Crisis Text Line counselor will be there to support you anonymously.
Originally published: October 3, 2017