What is Sextortion?
Sexual extortion, or Sextortion, is a growing form of sexual exploitation—often facilitated by technology in this current digital age. Sextortion happens when a person abuses their power or authority to coerce sexual acts, images, or videos from a victim.
Examples of Sextortion:
- Individuals threatening to share harmful information unless a person submits to sexual acts or provides sexual images
- Landlords withholding housing or repairs unless a person submits to sexual acts or provides sexual images/Landlords lowering rent in exchange for sexual acts or images
- Teachers offering better grades in exchange for sexting with students/or threatening failing grades if person does not comply
- Judges offering more favorable outcomes in exchange for sexual acts/or threatening harsher penalties if person does not comply
- Police officers lowering charges in exchange for sexual acts or images/or increasing charges if person does not comply
- Corrections officers providing privileges in exchange of sexual acts or images or threatening to withhold such privileges/services if person does not comply
- Employer withholding a client or promotion unless a person provides sexual acts or images/or promising a reward if person provides acts or images
- Treatment provider threatening to include false information in a file unless the person engages in sexual acts/or says they’ll ignore a “dirty urine test” in exchange for sexual acts or images
We all know victims of sextortion. They are a neighbor, the cashier at the grocery store, the server at our favorite restaurant, our son or daughter texting with friends, a colleague at work, a classmate, or team member. There are victims of all ages and backgrounds.
While sextortion happens in multiple settings and across many populations, victims often share the experience of feeling powerless and caught in a Catch-22, where there are no good options:
- Either engage in this sexual act, image, or video, or face a punishment or loss of reputation, a service, or other thing of value
- Get a reward or service, but only if you engage in this sexual act, image, or video
Victims often experience negative physical, mental health, economic, and reputational consequences as a result of sextortion. While every survivor is different, many feel alone, scared, ashamed, and fear that no one will believe them.
In many instances, current laws either insufficiently or do not address the acts of sextortion which allow these crimes and their perpetrators to go under-punished or unpunished at all. Victims are left with no redress. Prosecutors and courts need explicit statutory authority to hold perpetrators accountable.
It is time to shed light on sextortion and pass legislation that will enable Pennsylvania to keep pace with the digital age that often facilitates this crime. Sextortion legislation will enable us to hold offenders accountable and help victims in accessing justice.
Join the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape in the #endsextortion campaign as we rally at the state capitol on April 30 to support Senate Bill 1134 and other sexual violence and domestic abuse-related legislation.
What would sextortion legislation do?
The bill, SB 1134, would criminalize acts of sextortion and establish grading/sentencing that would improve Pennsylvania’s ability to hold offenders accountable. Currently, these crimes get diluted and collapsed under other existing sexual offenses or missed altogether. Yet, the impacts on victims can be serious and long-lasting. By creating a new crime of sextortion, we will be able to educate the public and providers about this crime and support victims in accessing justice.
What is the status of sextortion legislation in PA?
Co-sponsorship memo from Senators Randy Vulakovich (R—Allegheny) and Judy Schwank (D—Berks): http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/Legis/CSM/showMemoPublic.cfm?chamber=S&SPick=20170&cosponId=25216
The bill was placed on the Senate Judiary Committee agenda for Tuesday, June 5. Please call members of the committee and urge them to support this important legislation.
In The News
Instances of sextortion are widespread in Pennsylvania and throughout the U.S. Below are several examples of sextortion from recent news stories.