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Wisconsin lacks a law prohibiting ‘sextortion’

Extortion is not a new crime but Internet technology has made it possible to threaten Wisconsin residents in a new way. So-called sextortion involves using secretly recorded or voluntarily shared sexually explicit images or videos obtained online to blackmail someone. “Sextortionists” claim the sexual content will be revealed unless the victim meets certain demands.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children analyzed more than a year’s worth of its CyberTipline reports, from 2013 to 2014, to learn patterns about this Internet crime. NCMEC found more than three-fourths of children suspected of being sextortion targets were females, ages 9 to 17. Eleven percent were males, ages 12 to 17 – the genders of remaining victims were undetermined.

Seventy-eight percent of offenders’ threats involved securing new sexual material from the victims. Seven percent demanded money. Another 5 percent used the material to try to have sex with the victim.

NCMEC sextortion reports were filed most often by child victims or their parents. A significantly larger percentage of incidents were reported on behalf of or by males than for or by females. In more than one in four cases, the reporting individual suspected or knew an offender had targeted more than one child.

In reports that included a timeline, 82 percent of threats occurred as soon as the offender secured sexually explicit content from the child. In the remaining cases, the offender held onto the material and made threats at a later time. Most threats involved making sexual content available on social media or directly to family and friends.

In a May 2015 report, reported prosecutors attempt to work around the fact Wisconsin has no law specifically outlawing sextortion. Instead, a defendant might be accused of another serious charge like sexual exploitation of a child. Defense attorneys remind clients the state is responsible for showing a defendant knew or should have known the “victim” was underage.

Source: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, “Sextortion,” accessed June 24, 2015

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