Sexploitation online is on the rise: Here’s how to stay safe

·3-min read
Woman's hands on computer indicating sexploitation
Sexploitation, which includes publishing intimate sexual images of others online, is on the rise. (Getty Images)

Cases of 'sexploitation' – which refers to threats to publish, or the publication of intimate or sexual images online is on the rise.

Revenge porn is one form of sexploitation (otherwise known as 'sextortion' or 'cybersex blackmail') and The Revenge Porn Helpline says their caseload has doubled in the past year, citing the pandemic as a factor in the increase.

That spike in cases is both a positive and negative, according to the helpline. A statement from the helpline says: “Positive because victims are increasingly aware that a crime has been committed against them and feel empowered to take action; negative because these crimes continue to be committed.”

With more and more cases, experts are urging everyone to be more aware of how they operate online and to take preventative steps to avoid falling victim to this insidious crime.

Woman holding phone
Often, victims of sexploitation are too embarrassed to come forward. (Getty Images)

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In a new article on Psychology Today, Coral Dando, Ph.D., a Professor of Forensic Psychology at the University of Westminster, London, shares some useful advice for anyone who uses the internet or a smartphone. She warns to look out for ‘enticers’.

“It seems victims are contacted out of the blue by an ‘enticer’. Enticers will target individuals through dating apps and pornography sites, and via the social media platforms that most people use. They may catfish… use a fake identity and pose as someone else (usually young, beautiful, handsome and/or rich), and reach out remotely sending bulk messages to numerous potential victims.”

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How to stay safe from sexploitation online

Dando shares some tips on how to protect yourself from online sexploitation:

  • Don’t over-share and post too much personal information online

  • Use all your social media privacy settings

  • Use nicknames on dating sites

  • Never accept unknown friends

  • Cover your webcam

  • Don’t click on links or download files

Often victims are frightened to report cases of sexploitation but help is out there. The Revenge Porn Helpline provides advice and support to victims of intimate image abuse and 90% of content reported to them is removed.

Hand with phone
One of the best ways to avoid sexploitation is to never over-share personal information online. (Getty Images)

Here they provide some immediate steps to regain control of the situation if you have been a victim of sexploitation:

• Don’t panic – remember you have done nothing wrong and are the victim of a crime

• Screenshot all evidence – whether it is of the content itself or messages from the perpetrator

• Report the crime to the police – using 101

• After you have contacted the police, or if you are unsure on how to do so, call the Revenge Porn Helpline on 0345 6000 459 or email help@revengepornhelpline.org.uk

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Watch: New bill to help those affected by online sexploitation

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