Police in New Westminster are warning people about the risks of sending sexually-explicit materials online, after the department saw a recent uptick in sextortion reports.
Sexual extortion, or sextortion, is when someone blackmails a person into providing them with sexual content or money, over the threat that they’ll send the person’s sexually-explicit photos, videos or messages to others.
Among adults, distributing intimate images of someone is illegal without that person’s consent. If the content involves a child or teen, though, distributing it is always illegal, regardless of consent.
“Often, sextortion cases remain unreported due to the sensitive nature of the images and the victim may often be too embarrassed to file a report. Youth may also be hesitant to seek adult assistance and will often comply with threats to try and manage the situation on their own,” Sgt. Justine Thom said in a news release.
The warning comes amidst of a slew of similar ones issued by other police departments across Canada in recent years. According to Statistics Canada, the non-consensual distribution of intimate images of adults or children rose nine per cent between 2020 and 2021, to 194 reported cases. Compared with the previous five-year average, that amounts to a 52 per cent jump.
The New Westminster Police Department is encouraging parents and guardians to speak with their kids about the risks of sending intimate material online. It says parents should also remind their children not to accept friend requests or messages from strangers.
If someone finds themselves being blackmailed, threatened or manipulated, the department says they should immediately stop all communication with the perpetrator and deactivate any social media accounts they’re messaging on. People shouldn’t delete their accounts though, and should keep as much information about the perpetrator and communication documented as possible.
The police department says people should never comply with the perpetrator’s threats, and should report things to police as soon as possible.
Anyone who believes they’ve been a victim of a sexual exploitation can report it to their local police department.
Youth in need of support can speak to someone at the Canadian Mental Health Association distress line (403-327-7905 or toll free 1-888-787-2880) or the Kids Help Line (1-800-668-6868).
-With files from The Canadian Press