Sextortion has continued to be the most prevalent form of Intimate Image Abuse that the Revenge Porn Helpline has seen, with around 25% of its cases throughout 2022 being related to Sextortion, otherwise known as Webcam Blackmail. These statistics reveal a concerning trend that has been emerging on the Helpline since 2021, with a rising number of individuals being coerced and blackmailed through threats to expose intimate images and explicit material.
Men Disproportionately Affected by Sextortion
The latest Revenge Porn Helpline Report has shown that 90% of all men who contact the Helpline are seeking advice about Sextortion, demonstrating a continuous trend found over the past few years where men are being disproportionately affected by this issue. The result of this has demonstrated that whilst most reported forms of intimate image abuse affect women, Sextortion continues to be an outlier compared to others.
Concerningly, the Helpline has seen Sextortion scammers employ increasingly sophisticated tactics to carry out their crimes, and many scammers have been found to utilise multiple different social media platforms to achieve this. Often made up of operations carried out by overseas organised crimes, Sextortion scammers are likely to be found using end-to-end encrypted social media platforms such as Facebook direct messages and Instagram.
The Helpline’s research found that scammers were able to utilise these platforms to access information on an individual’s network of friends and family.
There is real-world fear that is impressed upon victims for sharing intimate content.
— Revenge Porn Helpline Report, 2022
A Rise in Anonymous Reporting
Through their research, the Helpline has been able to identify that for many people impacted by Sextortion, the pressure of the situation and the fear of intimate content being shared can substantially affect those targeted. Consequently, individuals affected by Sextortion often wish for anonymity when reaching out for help, due to the concern that their contact methods and accounts have been accessed by scammers as part of their demands. The Helpline has found that Sextortion cases have led to a rise in anonymous reporting options being used to reassure people that they can maintain anonymity when contacting the Helpline.
What Does the Law Say?
Currently, Sextortion can fall under blackmail laws if the perpetrator is from the UK. Alongside this, sharing or threatening to share intimate images without consent is an offence in the UK, and recent amendments to the Online Safety Bill have removed the requirement to prove that perpetrators intended to cause distress when sharing intimate images without consent.
Sextortion Awareness Campaign
Over the course of the next two weeks, the Revenge Porn Helpline will be running a Sextortion awareness campaign, #CutOffTheCatfish, spotlighting the impact of Sextortion and the resources we can provide to support people affected.
Sophie Mortimer, Revenge Porn Helpline Manager at SWGfL, says:
"Sextortion continues to be one of the most common issues that people bring to us on the Helpline, and numbers are continuing to rise. Organised gangs based overseas are targeting predominantly men into online sexual activity which is being recorded and used for blackmail. Whilst these threats can be aggressive and distressing, it’s important to know that there is help available. These gangs want people to feel isolated and frightened, but you are not alone."
Find out more about Sextortion, and what you can do if you have been affected, by visiting our Sextortion Information Hub.
Contact the Revenge Porn Helpline
If you, or someone you know, has been affected by Sextortion or intimate image abuse, you can contact the Revenge Porn Helpline on 0345 6000 459 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Helpline is open to all adults (18+) from 10 am to 4 pm, Monday to Friday, excluding bank holidays. To send an anonymous or out-of-hours report, you can contact us through our website. Find out more at www.revengepornhelpline.org.uk