Sextortion of Minors: Characteristics and Dynamics.

Academic Article


  • PURPOSE: Sextortion (threats to expose sexual images to coerce victims to provide additional pictures, sex, or other favors) has been identified as an emerging online threat to youth, but research is scarce. We describe sextortion incidents from a large sample of victims (n = 1,385) and examine whether incidents occurring to minors (n = 572) are more or less serious than those experienced by young adults (n = 813). METHODS: We ran advertising campaigns on Facebook to recruit victims of sextortion, ages 18-25, for an online survey. We use cross tabulations and logistic regression to analyze incidents that began when 18- and 19-year-old respondents were minors (ages 17 and younger) and compare them with incidents that began at ages 18-25 years. Most minor victims were female (91%) and aged 16 or 17 when incidents started (75%). RESULTS: Almost 60% of respondents who were minors when sextortion occurred knew perpetrators in person, often as romantic partners. Most knowingly provided images to perpetrators (75%), but also felt pressured to do so (67%). About one-third were threatened with physical assaults and menaced for >6 months. Half did not disclose incidents, and few reported to police or websites. Perpetrators against minors (vs. adults) were more likely to pressure victims into producing initial sexual images, demand additional images, threaten victims for >6 months, and urge victims to harm themselves. CONCLUSIONS: Sextortion incidents were serious victimizations, and often co-occurred with teen dating violence. We describe resources so that practitioners can help victims find support and legal advice and remove posted images.
  • Authors

  • Wolak, Janis
  • Finkelhor, David
  • Walsh, Wendy
  • Treitman, Leah
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • January 2018
  • Published In


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Crime Victims
  • Dating violence
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Intimate Partner Violence
  • Male
  • Police
  • Sex Offenses
  • Sexting
  • Sextortion
  • Sexual Partners
  • Sexual abuse
  • Social Media
  • Social media
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • Victimization
  • Young Adult
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 29055647
  • Start Page

  • 72
  • End Page

  • 79
  • Volume

  • 62
  • Issue

  • 1