Study claims online sextortionists more likely to threaten men than women
By Tom Campbell via SWNS
More people have been sexually blackmailed online during the pandemic and men are No. 1 targets, scientists have warned.
Online extortionists threatening to publish explicit images or videos, a cybercrime dubbed sextortion, were twice as likely to threaten men than women, according to a new study.
Other groups, including young people, black women and members of the LGBTQ community have also been targeted.
A substantial rise in sexual violence involving digital technology has been reported since the beginning of the global pandemic.
But while cyber offences like so-called revenge porn have received much attention, sextortion has slipped under the radar.
Now, for the first time, researchers at Florida International University in the United States have looked at who is most likely to be sextorted.
More often than not, the culprit is a current or former partner, online dating scammer
or strangers who hack into a person's photos or webcam.
Author Dr. Asia Eaton said: "Reports of sextortion to the FBI rose during the pandemic, a time of a significant transition to a more digital life via remote working and socialising."
A survey involving more than 2,000 adults in the United States was carried out by the researchers.
They asked participants whether they had ever been a victim of sextortion, which was defined as: "The act of threatening to expose a nude or sexually explicit image in order to get a person to do something such as send more nude or sexually explicit images, pay someone money or perform sexual acts."
Four and a half per cent of men said they had experienced sextortion since the beginning of the pandemic compared to 2.3 per cent of women, the researchers found.
There are a number of possible explanations for why men were more likely to fall victim to sextortion than women during this time.
Dr. Eaton said: "Recent research has highlighted gender disparities in unpaid care work and household-related work since the start of the pandemic.
"It is possible that men had more time to spend online than women during the pandemic."
A tendency to be less selective when it comes to dating could also explain why men are more likely to be targeted, they say.
This adds to previous research which found men were more likely to be victims of online romance scams in general.
But they are not the only ones being disproportionately sextorted, with black and native Americans also seven times more likely to be threatened than white women.
Likewise, rates amongst LGBTQ people were up to three times higher than among heterosexual individuals.
Age was also a deciding factor, with 18 to 29-year-olds bearing the brunt of sextortions.
This was likely because of their greater desire for sexual experimentation and use of technology, the researchers say.
People who had experienced sexual violence from a partner before the pandemic were also more vulnerable to sextortion.
The blackmailing was most commonly carried out by strangers or the victim's romantic partner, current or former.
More work is needed to determine why the risk of sextortion varies with race, age, gender and sexual orientation.
Also, to understand how it affects people differently is important as women may suffer more than men even though they are less likely to be targeted.
Questions about how technology can facilitate sexual violence should therefore be added to tests used by clinical professionals.
This could help identify patients who are in abusive relationships before referring them for counselling and other help.
Dr. Eaton said: "Sex education programmes that teach about consent, pleasure, and healthy relationship communication and decision-making may reduce both in-person and technology-facilitated sexual violence."
The findings were published in the journal Victims & Offenders.
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