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    Don’t give in to “Sextortion”

    Date: 09.17.10 | by Judge Tom.

    Do you know what “extortion” means?  The word refers to the act of obtaining money, property or services by use of threats.  For example, a bully at school who threatens to beat you up unless you give him your lunch money — this is a form of extortion.

    Add an “s” to extortion and you have a new crime facing individuals and law enforcement.  “Sextortion” is online sexual extortion.  It happens when a teenager sends a nude cell phone photo of themselves and a predator or pornographer sees it.  They contact the teen and threaten to expose their behavior to their online friends on Facebook, MySpace or other social networking sites, unless they pose for more explicit photos.  Teens are vulnerable to this form of blackmail because they’re easy to intimidate and embarrassed to seek help.

    HH-Michael (Flickr)

    Teens in many states have been victimized by sextortion.  A 19-year-old man from Maryland was indicted recently for sexual exploitation involving a 17-year-old girl.  The girl was with friends when they decided to flash their breasts online in a chat room.  A week later the girl started getting threatening emails.  She was told that he would post her pictures to her MySpace friends unless she posed for videos for him.  The federal authorities became involved and he was arrested.  He goes to trial at the end of August, 2010.

    In February, 2010, 19-year-old Anthony Stancl was sentenced to 15 years in prison for posing as a girl on Facebook to trick male high school classmates into sending him nude photos of themselves.  He then used the photos to extort them for sex.

    In April, 2010, Jonathan Vance of Alabama was sentenced to 18 years in prison for extorting nude photos from over 50 young women in three states.  The 24-year-old sent them threatening emails demanding their cooperation in return for his promise not to go public with their “private” pictures.

    Nationally known Internet lawyer and cybersafety expert, Parry Aftab, commented on this phenomenon:  “Kids are putting their head in the lion’s mouth every time they do this.  You are blackmailable and you will do anything to keep those pictures from getting out.”  Even providing more damaging photos to pay off the predator.  As you see, it becomes a vicious circle that can lead to nothing but pain and regret.  Your so-called privacy settings don’t mean anything once you hit “send” and the photos leave your possession. 

    Get more information about the possible dangers of sexting.

    “Think B4 U Click.”

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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