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Sexual Extortion

  About Sexual Extortion  

What is Sexual Extortion?

Sexual extortion is a growing form of sexual exploitation—often facilitated by technology in this current digital age. Sexual extortion happens when a person abuses their power or authority to coerce sexual acts, images, or videos from a victim.

Examples of Sexual Extortion:

  • Individuals threatening to share harmful information unless a person submits to sexual acts or provides sexual images
  • Landlords withholding housing or repairs unless a person submits to sexual acts or provides sexual images/Landlords lowering rent in exchange for sexual acts or images
  • Teachers offering better grades in exchange for sexting with students/or threatening failing grades if person does not comply
  • Judges offering more favorable outcomes in exchange for sexual acts/or threatening harsher penalties if person does not comply
  • Police officers lowering charges in exchange for sexual acts or images/or increasing charges if person does not comply
  • Corrections officers providing privileges in exchange of sexual acts or images or threatening to withhold such privileges/services if person does not comply
  • Employer withholding a client or promotion unless a person provides sexual acts or images/or promising a reward if person provides acts or images
  • Treatment provider threatening to include false information in a file unless the person engages in sexual acts/or says they’ll ignore a “dirty urine test” in exchange for sexual acts or images

We all know victims of sextortion. They are a neighbor, the cashier at the grocery store, the server at our favorite restaurant, our son or daughter texting with friends, a colleague at work, a classmate, or team member. There are victims of all ages and backgrounds.

While sexual extortion happens in multiple settings and across many populations, victims often share the experience of feeling powerless and caught in a Catch-22, where there are no good options:

  • Either engage in this sexual act, image, or video, or face a punishment or loss of reputation, a service, or other thing of value
  • Get a reward or service, but only if you engage in this sexual act, image, or video

Victims often experience negative physical, mental health, economic, and reputational consequences as a result of sextortion. While every survivor is different, many feel alone, scared, ashamed, and fear that no one will believe them.

In many instances, current laws either insufficiently or do not address the acts of sextortion which allow these crimes and their perpetrators to go under-punished or unpunished at all. Victims are left with no redress. Prosecutors and courts need explicit statutory authority to hold perpetrators accountable.

It is time to shed light on sextortion and pass legislation that will enable Pennsylvania to keep pace with the digital age that often facilitates this crime. Sexual sextortion legislation will enable us to hold offenders accountable and help victims in accessing justice.

What Would Sexual Extortion Legislation Do?

Senators Judy Schwank and Kim Ward as well as Representatives Tedd Nesbit and Joanna McClinton have introduced a strong, bipartisan solution to a serious crime. SB 337 and HB 1402 would close a loophole in Pennsylvania laws and make sexual extortion a crime. The bills would establish penalties that match the severity of the crime.