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Mail Magazine Vol.131: What is Sextortion Damage? Sexual Threats, Trends, Responses, and the Law.

PAPS's consultation service receives nearly 100 consultations every month; in January 2023, 122 consultations were received, and the contents of the consultations vary from victims of pornography, revenge pornography, voyeurism, and problems caused by the exchange of sexual images and videos on SNS and other social networking services.

Among these, the number of consultations on "sextortion" is rapidly increasing. It accounts for a quarter of all consultations received by PAPS, and the number of consultations from junior high and high school students is rapidly increasing. It seems that not only women but also men are being victimized in significant numbers. The following is a description of the actual situation we are aware of regarding sextortion victimization.

What is sextortion (sexual intimidation)?

Sexting is a compound word that combines the words "sex" and "extortion": a person who has become friends with another person on a social networking service or the Internet asks the person to "send me naked pictures" or "exchange masturbation pictures" and then verbally coaxes the person to obtain personal information, sexual pictures, or videos.

They then reveal their true nature and demand that you "give me some money" or "send me more violent (sexual) pictures," and threaten to "expose you on the Internet" if you do not comply with their demands. Even if the victim complies with their demands, they will continue to make further demands and threats, and this is a criminal act that will drive the victim into a corner.

Voices of victims of sextortion received in PAPS

(Generalizations are made based on multiple consultations so that individuals cannot be identified.)

"I had a nice exchange with the guy and sent him a video of me masturbating with my face on it. A little later, he threatened to spread it all over the Internet if I didn't send him money. What should I do?"

"I didn't want him to hate me. I sent sexual images as I was told. I am now in trouble because the person threatened to expose me if I didn't send more extreme images and send him with my face on them."

"I sent a sexual image to someone I had a good feeling about online, and he threatened to spread it around if I didn't do what he said. I don't know his names, and I don't know who he is or where he is. I'm worried about what will happen to the images."

"I was in a rather risqué exchange with someone I met on a social networking service, and he told me, 'If you don't want your past exchanges to be exposed, send him sexual pictures. I didn't want to continue like this. I need help."

"He said he would pay me if I sent him sexual images, so I sent them to him, and then I lost touch with him."

"I was told to send 100,000 yen if I didn't want my sexual pictures exposed. I can't pay such a large amount of money. What should I do?"

(The amount demanded is not always 100,000 yen. There have been malicious cases in which the demanded amount was as much as 1,000,000 yen.)

Trends in Sextortion Damage Consultation

Since the summer of 2022, PAPS has received an increasing number of consultations about sextortion victimization. Many consultations have been received from minors, such as junior high and high school students, and it appears that men, as well as women, have been victimized in significant numbers.

In many cases, male students are victimized because they "thought the person they were communicating with was a woman, only to find out later that the person was a man, and were threatened with images and personal information as pawns."

In some cases, we have proceeded to consult with the police together with the person himself/herself, but some of the victims give up the idea of reporting the damage to the police, saying, "I think the other party is from overseas. So, I don't think there is anything I can do even if I talk to the police..." Some victims give up on reporting the damage to the police.

While progress has been made in preventing and raising awareness of damage from telephone scams such as "It's me scam(Ore-ore sagi in Japanese)", which targets the elderly parents' generation, prevention and awareness of sextortion has not yet progressed. Since younger generations with less social experience seem to be targeted, there is concern that the damage may increase.

Responding to damage consultation

As an example of how to respond to a sextortion victimization consultation, the following is communicated:

  • The need to preserve evidence (e.g., not blocking, keeping a scrubbed record of DMs, and how to do so)

  • What the legal ramifications are (regarding legal knowledge to protect you)

  • Suggestions on how to respond (we confirm individual circumstances and the victim's intentions)

In the case of consultation from junior high or high school students, we inform them that sexual images and videos of children under the age of 18 fall under the Child Pornography Prohibition Law, and therefore, we inform them of the following:

  • That you, as a minor, are in a position to be protected by law

  • That possession of sexual images or videos of minors will subject the other party to punishment

After providing such information, we may guide them to consult with the police. However, many junior high and high school students do not want to go to the police, or do not want their school or parents to know about it. We try to respond in a manner that respects the wishes of the individual.

Background of increased damage from Sextortion

One of the most common patterns we hear about is that a partner asks, "Can I take a picture of you? One of the most common patterns we hear about is that a person in a relationship asks, "Can I take a picture of you?

"I refused at first, but he persisted."

"As I kept refusing, he made me feel like it was my fault, so I gave in and agreed. "

"But I never thought it would come to this..."

We have received many such consultations. The party who obtains a sexual image or video can view it regardless of the subject's intentions. They can show them to their friends, share them on line, and digitized images can be easily duplicated.

On the other hand, the subject has no control over how the photos and videos taken will be handled. In many cases, the subjects are young women. We have heard from many clients who have been deeply hurt and distressed by the vague fears of "What happened to the photos?" and "Are they spreading on the Internet?"

We are an organization that has been listening to the "voices" of victims of digital sexual violence and pornography. The reason for the increase in the number of victims of sextortion is the fact that it has become so common for people to ask for sexual photos and videos to be taken. This is a growing crisis.

What are the legal ramifications? Toward the establishment of a new crime of filming

In February 2023, a subcommittee of the Legislative Council (an advisory body to the Minister of Justice), which is reviewing the sexual offense provisions of the Penal Code, compiled a draft outline calling for the establishment of "filming offenses. The Citizens' Project for the Reform of the Penal Code, in which our organization participates, has requested the establishment of a new crime of filming in order to eliminate the damage caused by the filming and dissemination of sexual videos and images.

The filming crime addresses not only the act of filming, but also the act of spreading, storage, and even confiscation and erasure, which has been an issue in the past. In order to prevent the spread of the damage caused by sextortion, the law must be revised from the standpoint of the victims.

We believe that the victimization consultations we receive are just the tip of the iceberg.

The methods of such crimes are becoming more sophisticated and complex. To solve these crimes, we need the cooperation of experts and specialized organizations. If you are a victim, please do not keep it to yourself, but consult with us. We also ask that you spread the word about the necessity of not allowing such crimes to continue, providing relief to victims, and cracking down on perpetrators.



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