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New initiative to increase sextortion support for young people

There are serious safety and wellbeing concerns for children who are caught up in sextortion.

The AFP-led ACCCE has joined forces with Kids Helpline, Meta and US youth prevention program, NoFiltr, to better protect young people from the growing threat of sextortion.

The partnership includes the release of new educational resources, targeting 13-17 year olds online with safety messages to prevent and respond to sextortion. The package also includes  support and advice to parents and youth on sextortion, information on how to report sextortion and most importantly, where to seek help if targeted by offenders.

Latest data reveals the AFP-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) is receiving around 300 reports of sextortion targeting children each month. The initiative is timely heading into the end-of-year break, where the ACCCE typically sees an increase of reports.

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Sextortion is a form of online blackmail where offenders trick or coerce someone into sending sexual images of themselves, and then threaten to share the images unless their demands are met. These demands could be for money, more graphic content or sexual favours.

There are serious safety and wellbeing concerns for children who are caught up in sextortion, with suicide and self-harm risks attributed to this offending both overseas and in Australia.

Resources have been developed in partnership with NoFiltr, a youth prevention program founded by Thorn, who play an important role in empowering young people to safely navigate sexual exploitation and risky encounters in their connected world.

Social media assets will be shared and promoted by Meta across platforms used by young people over the next month, directly reaching those at risk of sextortion.

AFP Acting Commander ACCCE and Human Exploitation Frank Rayner said the resources were designed to educate and support young people, parents and guardians, particularly before the end-of-year holidays when children typically spend more time online.

“It’s important that children know that help is available and the AFP and its partners, including Kids Helpline, are here to protect and support victims of sextortion,” Acting Commander Rayner said.

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“Sextortion can escalate in a matter of minutes, but remember it is not your fault and when you speak up we will believe and support you.

“There are some tell-tale signs of sextortion, including incoming friend requests from strangers or people pretending to be friends with your friends, sudden sexualised questions, conversations, or photos from a random profile asking for some in return.

“We want young people to be alert to the signs, report and seek help and guidance if they have been targeted by offenders.”

CEO of yourtown Tracy Adams said that Kids Helpline, a service delivered by yourtown, has seen more than 280 reports of sextortion-based contacts made by young Australians, over the past 12 months between July 2022 and June 2023.   

“This partnership highlights the need for a whole-of-community response to protecting our children through increased awareness and education aimed at preventing online sextortion before it happens,” Ms Adams said.

 “If your child is or has been a victim, it is important to stay calm and reassure them that it’s not their fault and that there is help available through Kids Helpline.”

Meta’s Regional Policy Director, Mia Garlick said we’re proud to support the AFP-led ACCCE and Kids Helpline in raising awareness of these important tools and services that are available should young Australians be concerned about sextortion or non-consensual sharing of images online.

“We know the spread of intimate images can be an extremely traumatic experience for young people, and we want them to know that it does not matter what personal circumstances you are in – this can happen to anyone and most importantly – help is available,” Ms Garlick said

“We are committed to working with the broader industry to ensure we can help educate young people about the risk of sharing these images and to stop the spread of these images on our platforms.”

Glen Maxwell celebrates as Australia moves to semi finals Image Source @ICC XTwitter 1 2 1
Representative image: Sextortion (Source: CANVA)

If you know someone that has become a victim of sextortion, here is what to do:

  • Urge them to not send any more graphic content or pay as this will lead to more demands;
  • Take screenshots of the chat for a police report;
  • Block the fake profile and notify the platform administrators;
  • Report the crime to the ACCCE at accce.gov.au/sextortionhelp; and
  • Seek mental health support if required. Kids Helpline offers free and confidential sessions with counsellors.

The AFP and its partners are committed to stopping child exploitation and abuse, and the ACCCE is driving a collaborative national approach to combatting child abuse.

The ACCCE brings together specialist expertise and skills in a central hub, supporting investigations into online child sexual exploitation and developing prevention strategies focused on creating a safer online environment.

Members of the public who have information about people involved in child abuse are urged to contact the ACCCE at www.accce.gov.au/report. If you know abuse is happening right now or a child is at risk, call police immediately on 000.

If you or someone you know is impacted by child sexual abuse and online exploitation, support services are available at www.accce.gov.au/support.

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