“If you don’t send me five other pictures I am going to post the photo online”: A qualitative analysis of experiences of survivors of sextortion

Wendy A. Walsh, Dafna Tener

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In this study, we explored survivors’ experience with sextortion (threats to expose sexual images to coerce victims to provide additional pictures, sex, or other favors). We conducted in-depth telephone interviews with 48 adults aged 18 to 25 who had been targets of sextortion. Nearly half of participants were minors at the time of the sextortion incident. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis, which resulted in four major dimensions. The dimensions identified were the emotional connections between victims and perpetrators, the nature of the threats, societal responses, and integrating the sextortion into their life stories. The findings emphasized the multidimensional nature of this phenomenon. There was a wide range of emotional connections, from brief connections to close intimate relationships or strong friendships. Some threats remained unfulfilled, while other were carried out. Some threats were one-time and some lasted for years. Societal responses were central in participants’ narratives, with most participants actually turning to their peers and parents for support. Many expressed thankfulness for the opportunity to tell their story during the interviews. For the majority of participants sextortion was perceived as a central event in their lives, one that changed them forever. Listening to the voices of survivors helps professionals understand these harmful situations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)447-465
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Child Sexual Abuse
Volume31
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Taylor & Francis.

Keywords

  • Sexting
  • sextortion
  • sexual abuse
  • social media
  • survivor’s narratives

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine

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