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The Shocking Reality of Sextortion and the Battle Against Digital Shame

Financially motivated sexual extortion: an alert for education settings

I was asked to speak about the recent alert from the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) #CEOP Education team regarding the alarming rise of sextortion. Sextortion involves people being forced into paying money or meeting another financial demand, after an offender has threatened to release nude or semi-nude photos of them. This could be a real photo taken by the victim, or a fake image created of them by the offender.

Globally there has been an increase in reports of children and young people being victims of financially motivated sexual extortion, often referred to in the media as ‘sextortion’.

The National Crime Agency’s CEOP Education have issued an alert to education settings across the UK in response to this threat. The alert helps professionals to:

  • recognise and understand financially motivated sexual extortion
  • raise awareness and help seeking behaviours amongst children and young people
  • give suitable messaging and support to parents and carers
  • support victims of financially motivated sexual extortion

This is an important message from the NCA, but perhaps there’s more we need to consider about how sextortion has become some concerning. In the expansive landscape of our digital age, where technology intertwines with every facet of our lives, a shadow looms large — the pervasive specter of shame. It whispers in the quiet moments of our online interactions, reminding us of the risks of exposing our digital habits and vulnerabilities.

The recent surge in cases of sexual extortion, or ‘sextortion,’ serves as a grim testament to this digital shame. Predators adept at manipulation exploit the very essence of our digital existence, preying on our yearnings for connection and intimacy. They weave a web of deceit, enticing individuals to reveal their most intimate moments, only to weaponize them against their victims.

Yet, beyond the realm of criminal exploitation, a more insidious form of #shame festers. We find ourselves swimming in a sea of judgment and scrutiny, afraid of exposing our browsing history, hesitant to share our true selves, and plagued by the fear of digital ridicule.

In this digital era, our failure to adequately support our children through their emotional development compounds the problem. They navigate a landscape fraught with pitfalls and perils, often left to fend for themselves in a world where shame thrives in secrecy and silence.

As Brene Brown, leading researcher in shame, “Shame derives its power from being unspeakable”.

Our cildren, immersed in a culture of comparison and perfectionism fueled by social media, are particularly vulnerable to the corrosive effects of shame.

It’s time we confront this reality and acknowledge our collective responsibility to nurture emotional resilience in the digital realm. We must equip our children with the tools to navigate the complexities of online interactions, fostering a culture of empathy, understanding, and authenticity.

In doing so, we can begin to dismantle the walls of shame that divide us and pave the way for a more compassionate and inclusive digital future.

Read more about the alert here:

Report an incident of sextortion (or other online offenses) here:

Listen to my interview here:

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