In this series of blogs, we expose some of the myths that surround sexual abuse and sexual violence. The series is part of National Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week.
The aim is to highlight how damaging these myths can be and how important it is to raise awareness of sexual abuse and sexual violence to both prevent and effectively respond to victims and survivors. IDAS employ Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs) who support survivors with both practical guidance and emotional support. These accounts are based on real life events; however, some details have been changed to preserve the anonymity of the survivors. The content of the blogs may be upsetting for some people as they depict the circumstances of the violence or abuse experienced by the survivor as they recall it. The survivors have given their permission for these accounts to be published to help dispel the myths.
This account exposes the behaviour of online sexual predators who target children and use threats to extort images and video. This is illegal. Possessing or requesting images of anyone under the age of 18 is illegal. In this case a teenage boy was manipulated into carrying out sexual acts on web cam. This account contains graphic descriptions of his experience.
"I was a normal teenage boy. It was winter, so rather than meeting up with friends we would talk online, either while playing a video game or via messenger. It was great, why be outside in the cold when we could do the same things in the comfort of our own home. That’s how I met ‘her’. I can’t remember the day specifically but the five of us all got the same request."
"Charlotte Stanci, 16. Long blonde hair, grey eyes. Hot."
"None of us knew Charlotte but she sent a message saying she was moving to our school after Easter half term. She said that she liked playing video games and football so she had been given a few names of people by the Head so she knew people when she came. I hadn’t heard of this before but she knew the school and the teachers so it seemed legit."
"We started messaging. Soon we were talking all the time. She asked about my life, the school, my friends and I did the same. She was funny, cute and cheeky. I thought my luck was in. My friends had also messaged her but soon their conversations went dry. I felt so special that ours hadn’t."
"Charlotte said that she couldn’t wait to meet me and had started to like me. I felt the same. She suggested we Skype and I couldn’t believe it. I was finally seeing her. I raced home from school and sent the conversation request. Charlotte’s webcam wouldn’t connect but that was ok, I would speak and she would type. She never did fix her webcam."
"She was a few months older than me and much more experienced. She started asking about my sexual history. She wanted to see me on webcam. I wasn’t sure at first but she was very convincing. She wanted to see my body."
"It felt a bit impersonal, alien at first but she spurred me on to expose more and even masturbate."
"Then it stopped. Or started I guess you could say. Her Facebook profile and Skype account disappeared. Then the emails started. They contained screenshots, videos and sound bites from the Skype sessions. They threatened to post them online, around my school, to my parents. How had I been so stupid?"
"The emails asked for more photos and videos in return for silence. It was humiliating but what choice did I have? I said that I would call the police and report them but they said what I had done was illegal as I was under 18. I felt so stupid. Stupid, alone and disgusted with myself."
"I became very withdrawn and avoided seeing my friends in case they knew anything, after all they’d had requests too initially. Then an organisation came into school and gave a talk about Sextortion, Sexting and the law. It finally clicked what had happened to me and I spoke out."
"I wasn’t the criminal, I had been blackmailed and exploited. I was under 18 and therefore it was illegal for those images to have been requested, produced and stored."
"Someone, somewhere had indecent images and videos of me, a child, performing sexual acts and with the use of police intelligence they were located and held accountable at court."
Charlotte was actually Mark Airedale, 34. A sexual predator.
Increasingly, young people are being exploited online. Perpetrators use blackmail and manipulative tactics to convince young people to comply with their requests. It can take as little as a few minutes.
Sextortion involves manipulating someone into providing sexual favours, videos, and images and using them as blackmail for money or further acts, images or videos.
In this case, the perpetrators manipulated the teenager into believing that he had done something illegal. This was a clear case of sextortion and the child was not to blame.
Sexting is sending, receiving or forwarding sexually explicit images, primarily between mobile phones. It is illegal to produce, record or store images of under 18s.
IDAS Independent Sexual Violence Advisors can provide advice and support for people who are affected.
National Sexual Abuse & Sexual Violence Awareness week
North Yorkshire Police, Sextortion
Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre