The internet is prevalent in the everyday lives of most people – especially teenagers. Along with all of the great information at your fingertips, however, the internet has a dark side that is impacting kids across the country and in Illinois.
It is unfortunate that kids and teens are targeted on the internet, seemingly all the time, by those who wish to do them harm. A new crime has emerged as a result: sextortion.
This crime can lead to others, such as the sexual exploitation of a child, so it’s pretty serious if you’re involved on any level. The FBI has recently warned that young boys are being targeted online through sextortion, so take notice.
Here is what you need to know about sextortion, how it’s perpetrated, and how it can lead to very serious criminal charges.
Sextortion: What Is It?
Sextortion is simply a form of blackmail. It can be perpetrated against anyone of any age, though it appears to happen to kids and teens most often.
Sextortion is when a person threatens to send images or videos of a sexual nature to others if you don’t do something of value for them. This could take the form of being force to give them more sexual content or paying an amount of money to keep the images or videos private.
A person who uses this form of extortion against another weaponizes fear or embarrassment to force them to comply. The victim doesn’t want to be humiliated – or, in the case of younger victims, they don’t want their families to find out about the pictures or videos.
How Does It Occur?
You may think sextortion is easy to avoid, but the truth is: Cases that end in sextortion probably start off just like any other online chat. The conversation turns romantic or sexual at some point, and the perpetrator asks the victim for nudes in either picture or video form.
It’s not unheard of for those who commit sextortion to “love bomb” their victims – that is, they praise them and give them attention so that they feel listened to, unique, and valued.
That’s why young teens tend to be the victims of these types of crimes. They’re often emotionally vulnerable and looking for someone to make them feel good.
What Crimes Occur?
If you’re receiving sexual content online from someone who is under age in Illinois, then using sextortion against them can be charged as a possible crime – particularly sexual exploitation of a child, which is a sex crime.
Sexual exploitation of a child occurs in the state in a couple of ways. For it to constitute sextortion, the child must be knowingly coerced, persuaded, or enticed to remove their clothing for the purpose of sexual arousal. In Illinois, a child is anyone under the age of 17.
If convicted of sexual exploitation of a child, you can face penalties associated with a Class A misdemeanor if it’s your first offense. This can result in up to 12 months in jail and fines of as much as $2,500. However, any conviction after your second will result in a Class 4 felony, which is punishable by up to three years behind bars and fines of as much as $25,000.
Of course, there are other crimes that could be charged in relation to sextortion such as revenge porn or even child pornography crimes. All of it is serious, which is why exchanging nude photos or explicit videos with anyone is a risky move that can lead to serious trouble down the road.
About the Author
Sami Azhari has been working as a lawyer since 2007, after receiving his Juris Doctor from the Michigan State University College of Law. He has handled numerous state and federal cases, and is known throughout the Chicago and Rolling Meadows area for providing his clients with high-quality, skilled representation. He has been recognized by Avvo (2013 and 2018), SuperLawyers (2015-2020), The National Trial Lawyers, and other notable organizations, and has spoken at a number of legal conferences.