You see what happens to the girls who do not cooperate: Their nude pictures are released.This goes on for days, then weeks, then months.Eventually, you have been producing pornography for a stranger for years.These are direct quotes and charges described in the indictment of 23-year-old New Hampshire man, Ryan Vallee, sentenced to eight years in prison in February.Vallee spent years trying to coerce teenage girls into producing pornographic videos and photos through threats and harassment. Prosecutors described Vallee's actions as "remote sexual assault."
Sedky was part of the team that prosecuted Vallee. "I spent a lot of time reading through the communications… It's very disturbing."Sextortion is considered by experts to be distinct from revenge porn, involving instances when a victim is coerced into sexual activity against their will, with the perpetrator often using hacked private photos as leverage. While sextortion is an invasive violation, it is not currently considered a sex crime.
He laced his threats with statements like, 'I like your red fire escape. Easy to climb.'
Ford was sentenced to 57 months."We think he did a Google Earth search to find out what the outside of [one victim's] apartment looked like. He laced his threats with statements like, 'I like your red fire escape. Easy to climb.' Ford's victims believed that he was nearby, tracking their every move, and that he would jump out and attack them. One was sleeping with a knife under her pillow every night."Sedky was with the Department of Justice's Computer Crimes and Intellectual Property Unit for five years before she encountered her first sextortion case.
"It's getting harder and harder to identify them, especially when they're using encrypted communications methods," she admits.Beyond increasingly secure app and software capabilities, Sedky says that one of the biggest issues is that there is still resistance to recognizing sextortion for what it is."This is a violence, domination, and anger [driven] crime," she explains. "Perhaps with a healthy dose of misogyny, too. I don't have a profile of the 'typical' perpetrator… They've ranged in age, teens to early 30s, from all over country, every economic situation—they don't have a common demographic."While public awareness of revenge porn and its illegality has gained some traction, sextortion itself remains a hidden phenomenon."The scope of the problem is big and the number of the people getting hurt is large—I can prove that to you," says Wittes of his study, which was the first to try to define what constitutes sextortion. "We looked at nearly 80 cases of 'sextortionists' and we had a minimum of 1,300 victims."
Some of the cases we looked at involved forced sibling sex, involving seven and eight year olds. Sometimes involving animals.
Watch: Inside the Torturous Fight to End Revenge PornSpeaking by email, Goldberg notes that by the time victims of sextortion come to her, they are traumatized and uncertain as to whether a crime has even been committed against them."I had a client who reported to the police eight times and was turned away eight times. For two years she was at the mercy of the anonymous man who was forcing her to have sex with strangers and worse. And police did nothing."