Sexploitation is the act of threatening to share nude or explicit images or video. Anybody of whatever age, background or gender/gender orientation can be targeted by, and fall victim to, sexploitation attempts.

You respond to an online request to expose all or part of your body on a webcam or send a nude photo to a new online ‘friend’. This maybe somebody you have met via a social media platform, app or gaming platform. In their initial contact, predators – who often pretend to be younger or a member of the opposite sex – often send friend requests accompanied by compliments or flattery, or propose a romantic relationship. They engage you with what seem to be genuine conversations to strike up close friendships. They may also promise the possibility of incentives such as money, cryptocurrency or gift cards, gaming credits / codes or even a modelling contract in exchange for intimate images or video.

Sometimes, sexploitation takes place when the perpetrator secretly records explicit videos and messages during online chats. Some may even hack into your computer to find sensitive material. Then, the ‘friend’ threatens to expose you by publishing or sharing the photos or video online unless you pose for more explicit photos or send money or gift cards. Perpetrators can also visit public social media profiles to find out more about you, including accessing your friend lists and searching for other personal information that may harm your reputation and cause distress.

Sometimes, you may be contacted on one platform, then asked to move to a second or third platform that may use encrypted messaging to make tracking more difficult.

Sexploitation is also sometimes perpetrated by either current or ex-partners who have intimate images or video of you and threaten to share it online, either to your contacts or via a public website. This does have similarities to revenge porn, although the latter is normally motivated by a personal grievance.

The effects

Sexploitation is a violation which can be traumatising and dehumanising, feeding on its victims’ shame. It can result in embarrassment, a sense of hopelessness and isolation, with many people not knowing where to turn. They can become withdrawn and, tragically, some have gone so far as to take their own lives without knowing that help is available.

Protect yourself

  • Consider your online activity, including who you are communicating with.
  • Review your social media privacy settings. Keeping accounts private can prevent potential perpetrators from gathering their personal information.
  • Don’t accept friend requests from anyone online you don’t know in real life.
  • Don’t share personal contact information, such as home address, phone number, email or handles, to anyone you haven’t met in real life.
  • If someone you don’t know asks for personally identifying information, politely say no.
  • Never share your passwords with anyone.
  • Always use hard to guess passwords with at least 12 characters and a mix of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and symbols. Don’t use family members’, pets’ or sports team names, dates of birth or anything that someone could guess by reviewing your social media profiles. Use a different password for every account.
  • Clicking on links in e-mails, texts, messages or posts that come from people you don’t know could compromise your device and threaten your safety.
  • Be careful about the use of recording devices such as baby monitors, webcams and smart speakers. Assume they can be activated remotely. Point phones and cameras away when you’re undressing / undressed / bathing etc.
  • Cover your webcam when you’re not using it, using the built-in cover, a sticker or piece of tape.

Report sexploitation

Report threats or actual sexploitation, however embarrassed or stressed these may make you. Depending on the nature of the threat or exploitation, consider reporting to the platform where the threat has been made, the platform or channel where the content has been shared, and/or the police.

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