Sextortion is extortion where sex or sexual imagery, rather than money, is demanded by someone with power over the victim.

Sextortion is the nexus between corruption and sexual abuse. For example, a judge demands sex in exchange for a favorable custody decision, a landlord demands sex in lieu of rent, teachers trade good grades for sexual acts. Sextortion is proliferating in the digital age. Hackers obtain sexual images and use them to obtain more images, or an abusive partner threatens to expose sexual images as a form of control.

Facts about Sextortion

  • Women and girls are disproportionately affected
  • Cyber-sextortion is a fast-growing problem in the Internet era
  • Perpetrators exploit digitally savvy children and teens
  • Many perpetrators have abused multiple victims—sometimes hundreds
  • Victims experience long-lasting psychological impact and harm to their reputations
  • Victims often do not report or do not know where to seek help
  • Existing laws are inadequate to prosecute sextortion; laws need to be amended to specifically address sextortion


Need for public awareness

Even though the term “sextortion” is increasingly used by the media and law enforcement, it is not specifically recognized as a crime in the United States. Sextortion is not even in the dictionary! Public education is needed to raise awareness among parents, schools, and the general public. Individuals and families should be able to protect themselves from sextortion and to report it if they are victimized.

Lack of adequate legal solutions

The United States lacks adequate legal solutions to ensure justice for victims. U.S. law does not expressly prohibit sextortion. Because of lack of adequate laws, clear sextortion cases have gone unpunished.

How Legal Momentum is working to end sextortion

  • Educating the public and raising awareness
  • Advocating for legal reforms such as amending existing extortion, cybercrime, sex offense, and domestic violence statutes
  • Ensuring that schools include sextortion awareness in internet safety curricula


Resources & Materials

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