Hundreds of Kids Blackmailed Into Online Sex Acts


Children across the world, some as young as 8 years old and many in the
U.S., were blackmailed into performing sexual acts online and even
forced into
self-harming, British police said today.

Over the past two years, at least 424 children have become victims of
the blackmail, leading to seven people taking their own lives, according
to new research published today by the Child Exploitation and Online
Protection Centre (CEOP), a police agency in the United Kingdom. 
“They’ve got some of these teenagers to cut themselves with knives,
they’ve got some of these teenagers to write on their naked bodies quite
degrading, quite belittling messages,” CEOP Deputy Chief Executive Andy
Baker told in an interview. 
In some cases, the perpetrators made their victims refer to themselves as slaves, he said.
The number of Americans caught up in this is, “well into double
figures,” Baker said, noting that the 12 criminal networks that the
agency tracked tended to focus on English-speaking countries. 
“The offenders have targeted English-speaking countries in particular
and those that have a culture whereby children, young people, have ready
access to the Internet, smart phones and other technology that will
allow perpetrators to contact them,” Baker said. 
In most instances, children are tricked into posting compromising
messages and pictures by online predators who lure them into fictitious
relationships, pretending to be of a similar age and often, the opposite
gender, according to the report. Once the victim has sent embarrassing
pictures, the perpetrators then use them as blackmail, threatening to
send the exchanges to their friends and family if they don’t do as
they’re told. 
“These types of situations snowball and the child often doesn’t know a
way out,” said Michelle Collins, vice president of the Exploited
Children Division at the National Center for Missing and Exploited
Children (NCMEC), based in Alexandria, Va. 
NCMEC, which works closely with CEOP, sees cases of online sexual abuse
in America on a weekly basis, Collins said, noting that many of the
children never report abuse because of the fear of embarrassment. The
predators play on this fear, she said. “It gives them the leverage to
exploit the child further.” 
The Internet has been used by online predators for over 20 years but
their methods have evolved, Baker said. By using blackmail, abusers can
exert rapid control of their victims. In one case, within four minutes
of meeting an abuser online, a victim said, “You make me feel like I
want to kill myself,” Baker recalled, referring to a case he had
reviewed. “It’s that quick.” 
“The online world is part and parcel of everyday life now and we will
never put the genie back in the bottle,” said John Cameron, head of the
National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC)
helpline in the U.K., in response to the CEOP report. 
“But young people must remember that the online world is the real
world,” he said in his statement. “Pictures can be distributed to
thousands of people in seconds and can never be fully deleted.”
Baker concedes that there are dark corners on the Internet but that the
best advice he can give to parents is to not be afraid to discuss these
issues with their children.
“Don’t make this a taboo subject,” he said.
Read more: abcnews



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