Financial sextortion study in young boys and adolescents

The Dutch helpline for child sexual abuse, Helpwanted.nl, is conducting a study on financial sextortion. This study is financed by the Stiching Achmea Slachtoffer en Samenleving (SASS) (in English, Achmea Foundation: Victim and Society) and is carried out in cooperation with Slachtofferhulp Nederland (in English, Victim Support the Netherlands).

2020-01-24 Dutch Safer Internet Centre awareness, helplines, research

Sextortion is a form of extortion related to sexting. The victim receives threats that sexually explicit imagery (such as photos, videos, or screenshots of sexual conversations) of them will be leaked. There are two types of sextortion: financial sextortion and sexual sextortion. In financial sextortion, the victim has to pay a sum of money to the perpetrator. In sexual sextortion, the victim has to perform sexual acts, for example send more sexual explicit imagery, have sex with the perpetrator, or stay in a relationship with the perpetrator. The majority of the reports that Helpwanted.nl receives comes from boys. Despite alarming data on the prevalence of financial sextortion, this phenomenon is still relatively under-addressed media, policies, and (scientific) research.

Since May 2018, Helpwanted.nl has been trying to remedy this gap by conducting research on the financial sextortion of boys. The aim of this study is to generate in-depth insight of the scope and diversity in which financial sextortion occurs, the relationship between victim and perpetrator and the financial and emotional harm done to the victim. The aim is also to get a better understanding of which organisations victims turn to for help, and of the needs of the victims in terms of (after-)care.

The research consists of two specific phases. The first phase is an online questionnaire. Recently, Helpwanted.nl started with the second phase of the study: interviewing victims of financial sextortion.

The preliminary results (N=86) of the questionnaire show that these boys are persuaded to pay money through pressure and emotional persuasion via different social media platforms. According to Merel van Mansom, our research associate: "the perpetrator gathers all the information they can find about the victim during a short amount of time or the perpetrator invests in an emotional relationship to be able to put pressure on these boys".

On average the respondents have been sextorted for about 650 EUR. 33 per cent say they have paid the amount requested. Furthermore, these preliminary results show that up to two thirds of the boys felt like they were not able to talk to anyone about it. With the in-depth interviews, Helpwanted.nl hopes to be able get a better understanding of their inabilities to talk about this form of online sexual abuse, to further improve the care and assistance for boys who fall victim to this specific type of sextortion.

Helpwanted.nl expects to finalise the study in the Summer of 2020. More information about this study (in Dutch) can be found on the website of the Expert Agency for Online Child Abuse (Expertisebureau Online Kindermisbruik, EOKM).

Find out more information about the work of the Dutch Safer Internet Centre (SIC) generally, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services on the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) portal, or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.

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