By Mike McManus
In 2010 Amanda Todd, 13, agreed to show her breasts during a video chat on the web. The recipient then sent her a Facebook message demanding more or else. When she refused to cooperate, her tormentor shipped a photo of her breasts to all of her Facebook friends.
She was ridiculed and so embarrassed that she changed schools. She became anxious and depressed. In 2012 she posted a video about her predicament, saying, “I have nobody. I need someone.” A month later she committed suicide.
Six months ago, Dutch police arrested Aydin Coban, 35, and accused him of extorting Amanda and dozens of other girls, as well as adult men in Canada, the U.S. and Netherlands.
The Washington Post reported Amanda’s story this week along with the news that two students at George Mason University were the latest victims of “sextortion,” in which people send sexually explicit videos of themselves and are then extorted for money by the recipient in exchange for not distributing them to others.
After broadcasting sex acts on their webcam, “The suspects then recorded the footage of the victims and threatened to circulate the videos on the Internet unless the victims paid $5,000,” said a police officer.
The Justice Department released a new “National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction” in which it charged, “The threat of extortion directed toward children is not just restricted to the immediate sexual and emotional abuse imposed by the offender on their victims. Sextortion victims engage in cutting, have depression, drop out of school or grades decline, as well as engage in other forms of self-harm at an alarming rate.”
The internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which helps state and local law enforcement agencies, reports the number of complaints nationwide has grown from 5,300 in 2010 to 7,000 in 2013.
The predators, such as Tremain Hutchinson, pose as 15-year-olds, though they are in their 30s. After he was caught, Hutchinson admitted to raping four girls, the youngest of whom was only 11. He asked a 15-year-old girl to perform oral sex on her 13-year-old brother.
She panicked and told her brother who staged a photo pretending to do what he ordered. Her father said, “She felt that if she sent the picture, he would leave her alone. She was genuinely afraid and thought she could handle it, and it got out of control.”
Hutchinson was angry that the photo was not graphic enough. The picture was sent to her aunt, who went to the girl’s mother. Hutchinson was charged with extorting 16 child victims, including the four rape victims. “The guy was a terrorist,” said one cop.
The girl talked about suicide, began cutting herself and went into therapy. Her grades plummeted and relations with her family fractured. She’s now living with relatives in another state.
What should be done about Sextortion? I have three suggestions.
Most important, parents of teenagers need to block their cell phones and computers from being able to see or transmit nude photos or videos. The American Family Association has created American Family Online Mobile Filtering, which can be contacted via AFO.net or by calling 850 362-6180. For $19.95 a year, that i-Phone will be blocked.
Wives must take the same step to protect their husbands from porn’s temptation. Divorce attorneys say 60% to 68% of divorces involve the addiction by one spouse to hard core obscenity.
Second, we need a vastly strengthened law enforcement. Joseph Simone was a wrestling coach at a prestigious prep school in Providence, RI. He was charged with sextorting 22 young boys, pretending to be a young girl when soliciting initial nude images. He then threatened to release those images on Facebook if the boys didn’t perform more sex acts.
However, Simone was sentenced to only one year in prison and two more in home confinement.
By contrast, Joshua Blankenship ran a social media manipulation scheme against a single minor female in Maryland, convincing her that she had broken the law herself by sending out a nude photo. He demanded more images, in exchange for not telling the police. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to federal charges.
Brookings Institution calls for a federal sextortion law to eliminate vastly disparate sentencing.
Finally, America must elect a President who will begin enforcing federal obscenity laws. “The Obama Administration has refused to initiate any cases at all,” says Patrick Trueman, former director of obscenity enforcement under Reagan and Bush, now President of the National Council on Sexual Exploitation.
Amidst dark evil there are rays of hope.
Copyright © 2016 Michael J. McManus, President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist. Go to www.ethicsandreligion.com to see past columns. Hit Search for any topic.