A Call to Action: Ending ‘Sextortion’ in the Digital Age

Tue, 19 Jul 2016 12:56 PM
Author: Thomson Reuters Foundation, Legal Momentum and Orrick, Herrington, & Sutcliffe LLP
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Throughout the world, those in power extort vulnerable women and girls by demanding sex, rather than money. “Sextortion” is a pervasive yet under-reported form of corruption involving sexual exploitation: judges demanding sex in exchange for visas or favorable custody decisions, landlords threatening to evict tenants unless they have sex with them, supervisors making job security contingent on sex, and principals conditioning student graduation on sex. Today the crime has become digital and cyber-sextortion is rapidly on the rise.

In 2015, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, in collaboration with the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ), launched a guide: “Combating Sextortion: A Comparative Study of Laws to Prosecute Corruption Involving Sexual Exploitation.” The study outlined laws and practices relating to the crime in nine jurisdictions, spanning six continents. This new report was borne out of that research, and takes a more specific look at the United States and at how sextortion has evolved.

Despite increasing recognition from law enforcement agencies that sextortion exists and that it is indeed on the rise—the United States lacks adequate legal solutions to ensure justice for victims. This leaves women and young girls vulnerable at the hands of those willing to abuse their power, and—increasingly—online predators.

“A Call to Action: Ending ‘Sextortion’ in the Digital Age” shines a spotlight on the growing threat of sextortion, and highlights how easy it is to infiltrate computers to record and steal sexual imagery. The report calls for public education to help prevent sextortion and provides concrete examples of revisions to existing criminal statutes in order to combat this rapidly developing crime.

The report is an innovative collaboration between Legal Momentum and Orrick, Herrington, & Sutcliffe LLP facilitated by TrustLaw, the global pro bono programme of the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

We hope this study becomes a powerful tool to raise public awareness about sextortion, and to support legislators, advocates and citizens in the fight to end this shameful practice in the United States and beyond.