top of page

This article was published August 7, 2021 and provided by:

What Is Human Trafficking?


Human trafficking is a phenomenon that has been around for decades but that has recently taken the news and society in general by storm. As more and more people become aware of this terrible crime, it’s important to understand and be aware of the dangers and implications that come with this exploitation. It’s also important to know how to protect yourself as well as recognize human trafficking when possible.


Human trafficking is when a person or group of people coerce, deceive, and exploit another person for personal or financial reasons. In most cases, victims of human trafficking are manipulated into participating in sex trafficking by making false promises so that the leader or group of trafficking ring can make a profit.

Many human trafficking groups are part of a billion-dollar industry that includes international organizations who work together to capture, groom, manipulate, and threaten victims into involuntary servitude. Commercial sex acts, labor trafficking, and sexual exploitation are often major components of human trafficking, and the sex industry is often where this terrible crime is seen.


The crime of human trafficking is taken very seriously in the United States, and there are multiple human trafficking task forces and groups that constantly work to uncover human trafficking cases both in the United States and internationally.

Types Of Human Trafficking


There are two primary types of human trafficking: labor trafficking and sex trafficking. In both cases, victims are exploited through threats, coercion, manipulation, physical and emotional abuse, and drug addiction to participate in these types of trafficking. Many victims feel that they don’t have a choice and fear going to law enforcement due to the threats and manipulation involved.


The following is a description of both major types of human trafficking:


Labor Trafficking


Labor trafficking is a type of domestic servitude or modern-day slavery that involves victims participating in forced labor as a result of manipulation or force. Many trafficking groups use tactics such as debt bondage, threats against the victim’s family members, violence, and other forms of control to force individuals to work for free against their will in various industries.

brokenhearted girl.jpg

Examples of labor trafficking include forcing people to work in factories, in homes, and on farms in inhumane conditions and without proper or any compensation.


A large number of trafficking victims are responsible for the food products and consumer goods that many of us rely on in everyday life. This is due to the fact that labor trafficking is much more cost efficient and faster to produce goods as opposed to hiring and paying employees. Unfortunately, the higher the demand, the encouragement human traffickers have to continue the enslavement of innocent victims.


Sex Trafficking


Sex trafficking, another primary type of human trafficking, is when victims are manipulated and forced to perform commercial sex acts that bring in profit for the traffickers. Sex trafficking victims include both adults and minors. As with labor trafficking, sex trafficking often involves threats, force, control, debt bondage, and other forms of manipulation to keep victims participating in trafficking and to prevent them from seeking help.


Examples of places where sex trafficking may be present include brothels, fraudulent massage parlors, strip clubs, escort services, truck stops, and motels. In most cases, victims are not compensated for sex acts and the profits are given and kept by the trafficking leaders.


Human Trafficking Statistics


Human trafficking is much more prevalent than many people realize. In fact, an estimated 24.9 million people are victims of trafficking, and that number continues to grow every day. The following are statistics on human trafficking that may give you a better understanding of just how common this terrible crime is:

  • 43% of human trafficking victims are found, captured, and enslaved within domestic borders

  • 72% of all human trafficking victims are women

  • 28% of all human trafficking victims are children under the age of 18

  • 21% of identified human trafficking victims are men

  • 8,248 human trafficking cases were reported in 2019 alone

  • 7.5 million human trafficking victims are forced to work in the mining, hospitality, construction, and manufacturing industries

  • Human trafficking victims spend an average of 20 months in forced labor or sex trafficking

  • The highest number of victims are found in the Asia-pacific region, following by Africa, Europe, Central Asia, and the United States

  • Human trafficking brings in an estimated $150 billion a year in profits for traffickers

  • Only 439 human traffickers were convicted in 2016


These alarming statistics are only a small piece of the larger picture of human trafficking. While anti-trafficking groups and the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Justice are working hard to combat human trafficking, the prevalence of this vicious crime is still on the rise and a major part of the workforce and sex industry in the United States and around the world.


Who Is Most Susceptible To Human Trafficking?


There is not a specific type of person who is targeted for human trafficking. Every sexual orientation, age, race, ethnicity, gender, and education level can be targeted for this crime. However, there are certain types of individuals that human traffickers specifically prey on.


These individuals are usually of low economic status, vulnerable to manipulation, living in unstable or unsafe environments, or who cannot provide for their family. People who participate in recruiting individuals to traffic go to great lengths to coerce these individuals into thinking that working for them will solve all of their problems. For example, a human trafficker may make a false promise that if the person works for them, the trafficker will provide for the person’s family or give them money to send back to their family if they live in a different country.


Trafficking victims can be both United States citizens and migrants from other countries. Additionally, many traffickers prey on illegal immigrants and use this information as blackmail to keep the person working for them.


A few of the most susceptible populations of human trafficking include:

  • Those who are questioning or struggling with their sexual identity, such as gay individuals, lesbians, and transgenders

  • American Indians

  • Alaska Natives

  • Those with disabilities

  • Homeless people, especially homeless youth

  • Those who have experienced previous forms of sexual or physical violence

  • Individuals with low self-esteem who are easily persuaded

  • Low-income individuals

  • Runaways

  • Undocumented immigrants

  • Those with substance abuse issues

  • Those with mental health issues


All of these people are more vulnerable to trafficking due to their life circumstances. Traffickers can identify these vulnerabilities and use them as a way to encourage the victims to form a dependency on the traffickers for their livelihoods. The longer a person is involved in human trafficking, the more difficult it can be to get out of it.


Who Is Responsible For Human Trafficking?


Just as with victims, human traffickers do not have a specific demographic or profile. These individuals can be of any race, gender, ethnicity, sex, and socio-economic status. Some perpetrators may use trafficking to support their power and wealth in the community by creating a constant stream of significant income, while others are from low socio-economic statuses similar to those of many trafficking victims.


Examples of individuals who may participate in this inhumane and often organized crime include:

  • Gang members

  • Business owners

  • Individuals

  • Restaurant or farm owners

  • Intimate partners

  • Parents

  • Family members

  • Government representatives

  • Corporate executives

  • Leaders of transnational and national human trafficking rings

  • Previous victims of human trafficking


As you can see, the types of people who participate in human trafficking and the use of force to coerce individuals to take part in trafficking run the gamut. It can be difficult to discern whether a person is taking part in the perpetuation forced labor or sex trafficking.


How Can Your Recognize Human Trafficking


There are a few key signs that can be an indication that human trafficking may be present. Being aware of these signs just might help you save a life.

Signs of human trafficking include:

  • A person is not being paid what they were promised or are working for little or no compensation

  • A person does not have control over their identifying documents such as their passport

  • Regular threats are being made against a person by a boss or other superior

  • A person appears to be regularly monitored by another individual when the person is speaking with others

  • An individual is living in an inhumane or impoverished condition that has been provided by a boss or employer

  • The individual wants to stop participating in sex or labor trafficking but feels afraid or stuck in the situation

  • A person is regularly transported by a guard or chaperone from place to place

  • A person regularly feels pressure to perform sex acts and does receive compensation for these acts

  • An individual is involved with a controlling person such as an intimate partner or parent


If you believe you or someone you know is the victim of human trafficking, it’s important to alert the authorities as soon as possible. You can alert the National Human Trafficking Hotline by calling 1 (888) 373-7888 or text “HELP” or “INFO” to 233733. The hotline employees speak more than 200 languages and are available 24 hours a day and seven days a week. If you believe someone is in imminent danger, call 911.


What Is The AMP Model?


The AMP, or Act, Means, and Purpose, model is a model that was created to better explain the core elements of trafficking as defined by the federal government. One component from each element must be present to determine that the situation is potentially human trafficking. The following is a breakdown of each component of this model:




The act refers to how a trafficker comes into contact and obtains a human trafficking victim for the purpose of exploitation. Actions that count as an element of this component include:

  • Transports

  •  Provides

  • Induces

  • Recruits

  • Harbors

  • Obtains


It’s important to note that if a minor is induced into child commercial sex acts, it is considered child sex trafficking regardless of whether any of the above elements were used.




Means refers to the way in which perpetrators keep human trafficking victims working for them and silent about their situations. There are several different means a trafficker can use, and they will likely cater these means to the specific individual and what may motivate or manipulate them most effectively.

Examples of means in which a human trafficker may keep a person in the cycle of human trafficking include:

  • Abduction

  • Fraud

  • False promises

  • Coercion

  • Threats

  • Use of force

  • Deception

  • Drug addiction

  • Abuse

  • Promising to give out benefits or payments


Human traffickers will typically use any means necessary and available to attract and keep victims in the cycle of forced labor.


An excellent resource about how the sex trafficking perpetrators are using the trucking industry to exploit their victims is:



The purpose refers to the ultimate goal of human traffickers and perpetrators. There is typically only one component to the element: the exploitation of other human beings.


Human Trafficking Regulations And Laws


There are a number of human trafficking laws and regulations that the Department of Homeland Security has put in place in attempt to decrease the prominence of this crime. These laws include:

  • The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act: The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act, or the TVPA, is an act that works to regularly update and create sustainable human trafficking prevention, provide protection programs for survivors of human trafficking, and prosecuting traffickers.

  • The Customs and Facilitations and Trade Enforcement Reauthorization Act of 2009: This act was put in place as an amendment to the original Tariff Act of 1930 and include updates that prohibit the import of goods to the United States that were manufactured through forced labor or human trafficking.

  • PROTECT Act of 2003: The PROTECT Act, or the Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to End the Exploitation of Children Today Act, was designed to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse commonly seen in human trafficking.

  • Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004: This Act includes Section 7202 which created the Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center as a way to enforce more effective integration of the enforcement human trafficking laws and response efforts.


Effects Of Human Trafficking


Victims of human trafficking are susceptible to a number of significant and life-long effects. One of these effects is severe mental trauma. Human trafficking victims are placed in inhumane conditions in which the traffickers dehumanize victims in attempt to gain power and control over the victims. The psychological effects can be severe and range from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to depression, anxiety, and shame.


Another common and unfortunate effect that human trafficking can have on individuals is physical trauma. Some perpetrators use physical force and violence to exploit their victims, and abuse is a regular component of trafficking. Physical abuse, rape, and beatings are more common than we think, and victims are left with permanent physical trauma.


Additionally, those who are being trafficked can quickly begin to withdraw from family and friends in attempt to hide their situation. This ostracism can lead to guilt, shame, depression, and isolation, and further prevent the victim from speaking up. Individuals who have survived and escaped human trafficking may also feel ostracized from their friends, family, and community. Human trafficking is a terrifying and unique experience and survivors may feel as if no one understands their situation or as if others are judging them for their experience.


In short, human trafficking has consequences and implications that span far beyond the act of trafficking. Victims are left with life-long trauma and are less likely to use healthy coping skills to recover.


Resources To Turn To If You Or A Loved One Is Being Human Trafficked


If you or a loved one is involved in human trafficking, alerting the authorities or another person who can help can feel scary and even life threatening. However, there are people who can help and ensure your safety and freedom.


One way to seek help is to call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1 (888) 373-7888 or text “HELP” or “INFO” to 233733. The hotline employees speak more than 200 languages and are available 24 hours a day and seven days a week. If you believe someone is in imminent danger, call 911.

         Sex Trafficking

                      Shared hope International  


Sex trafficking is when a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud or coercion. A commercial sex act means any item of value is traded for any sexual service (prostitution, pornography, or sexual performance). Domestic minor sex trafficking is the commercial sexual exploitation of children, under 18 years old, within U.S. borders for monetary or other  compensation (shelter, food, drugs, etc.). This is synonymous with child sex slavery, sex slavery, child sex trafficking, prostitution of children, and commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC). 

At least 100,000 American children are being exploited through pornography or prostitution every year. The average age a child is first exploited through prostitution is 13 years old, though children as young as infants have been identified in pornography.


Under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) sex trafficking

requires force, fraud or coercion UNLESS the victim is a minor. Any

minor used in a commercial sex act (the exchange of any item of

value for a sex act) IS a victim of trafficking, regardless of their

willingness or desire to engage in the sex act.


Traffickers and pimps use physical, emotional, and psychological

abuse to coerce young women and girls into a life of sex trafficking.

Traffickers are master manipulators and employ tactics to create a

trauma bond between the victim and trafficker. Traffickers often use

the threat of violence against victim or a victim’s loved one to secure

their submission.


Many pimps often use a “lover-boy” technique to recruit girls from

middle and high schools. A lover-boy will present himself as a

boyfriend and woo the girl with gifts, promises of fulfilled dreams,

protection, adventure – whatever she perceives she is lacking. After

securing her love and loyalty, he will force her into prostitution.


Age is the primary factor of vulnerability. Pre-teen or adolescent

girls are more susceptible to the calculated advances, deception,

and manipulation tactics used by traffickers/pimps – no youth is

exempt from falling prey to these tactics. Traffickers target locations

youth frequent such as schools, malls, parks, bus stops, shelters

and group homes. Runaway, homeless or previously sexual abused

youth also may have an increased risk of becoming vulnerable to



A pimp is another name for a sex trafficker. Pimps or traffickers are

those who profit by receiving cash or other benefits in exchange for

the sexual use of a minor by another person. The buyers of sex from

juveniles can be anyone – professionals, students, tourists, military

personnel, a family member. Because buyers often pay in cash and

may interact with a victim for as little as five minutes, buyers are

increasingly difficult to identify.



In 2012, the (UNODC) United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

reports the percentage of child victims had risen in a 3 year span

from 20% to 27%. Of every three child victims, two are girls and one

is a boy. Gender and age profile of victims globally:

  • 59% Women

  • 14% Men

  • 17% Girls

  • 10% were boys


600,000 to 800,000 women, children and men bought and sold across international borders every year and exploited

for forced labor or commercial sex (U.S. Government).

  • When international trafficking victims are added to the estimates, the number of victims annually is in the ranges of 2 to 4 million. 

  • 50% of those victims are estimated to be children.

  • It is estimated that 76% of transactions for sex with underage girls start on the Internet.

  • 2 million children are subjected to prostitution in the global commercial sex trade (UNICEF).

  • There are 20.9 million victims of Trafficking World wide as of 2012.

  • 1.5 million victims in the United States. 




Human Trafficking has surpassed the illegal sale of arms.

  • Trafficking will surpass the illegal sale of drugs in the next few years.

  • Drugs are used once and they are gone, but victims of child trafficking can be used and abused over and over.

  • A $32 billion-a-year industry, human trafficking is on the rise and is in all 50 states (U.S. Government).

  • 4.5 million of trafficked persons are sexually exploited.

  • Up to 300,000 Americans under 18 are lured into the commercial sex trade every year.

  • 14,500 to 17,500 of those victims are trafficked into the United States each year.



The average victim’s age is 11 to 14.

  • Approx 80% are women and children bought, sold and imprisoned in the underground sex service industry.

  • Average life span of a victim is 3 to 7 years (found dead from attack, abuse, HIV and other STD's, malnutrition, overdose or suicide).

  • The largest group of at-risk children are runaway, thrown away, or homeless American children who use survival sex to acquire food, shelter, clothing, and other things needed to survive on America's streets. According to the National Runaway Switchboard  1.3 million runaway and homeless youth live on America's streets every day. [5,000 die each year] It would not be surprising to learn that the number of children trafficked in the United States is actually much higher than 300,000.


Children are often targeted by traffickers as they are deemed easier to manipulate than adults. More money can be earned by younger girls and boys exploited in sexual exploitation, especially virgins. Pre-pubescent girls are reported to be injected with hormones to bring on puberty. Younger girls are expected to have a greater earning potential, and as such are in greater demand.



Child victims of human trafficking face significant problems. Often physically and sexually abused, they have distinctive medical and psychological needs that must be addressed before advancing in the formative years of adulthood.

  • Child victims of exploitation can face a number of long-term health problems:

  • Sleeping and eating disorders

  • Sexually transmitted diseases

  • HIV/AIDS, pelvic pain, rectal trauma and urinary difficulties from working in the sex industry

  • Drug addiction

  • Chronic back, hearing, cardiovascular or respiratory problems from endless days toiling in dangerous agriculture, sweatshop or construction conditions

  • Fear and anxiety

  • Depression, mood changes

  • Guilt and shame

  • Cultural shock from finding themselves in a strange country

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

  • Traumatic bonding with the trafficker (Stockholm Syndrome)



Demand for cheap labor and for prostituted women, girls, and boys is the primary "pull" factor. Common push and pull factors exploited by traffickers include:

  • Unemployment and perceived job opportunities overseas (into the U.S.)

  • Unhappy home situation: The victim may be in an abusive situation, their family may be in debt, or there may be an addict in the family

  • Relatives and friends live in the destination country

  • Returning migrants, legal and illegal, say they have made a better living for themselves


Sex buyers are far more complicit in the victimization of sex trafficking victims. Sex tourism and child pornography have become worldwide industries, facilitated by technologies such as the Internet, which vastly expand the choices available to pedophiles and permit instant and nearly undetectable transactions. 



  • Child trafficking victims, like other child victims, come from many backgrounds and include both boys and girls across a wide range of ages

  • Children are trafficked to the U.S. from all regions of the world and represent a variety of different races, ethnic groups and religions

  • They may be brought to the U.S. legally or smuggled in

  • Internationally trafficked children, especially adolescents, may be lured overseas to the U.S. through the promise of work or school and the opportunity to send money back to their families

  • Children are also vulnerable to kidnappers, pimps, and professional brokers

  • Some children are sold to traffickers by their families, who may or may not have an understanding of what will happen to the child

  • U.S. citizen children may also be trafficked within the U.S., and come from multiple racial groups and socio-economic backgrounds


Needs of Rescued Trafficking Victims:




Many youth, especially U.S. citizen children trafficked within the U.S., runaway from problems at home and may be exploited as a result of emotional vulnerability, homelessness and the need to survive. Youth who run away from home and engage in "survival sex" often find themselves vulnerable to pimps and traffickers involved in prostitution networks. Approximately 55% of street girls, and a good percentage of boys, engage in formal prostitution and some think it is much higher than that. This means that a child client who has been homeless or living on the street for any amount of time has a great likelihood of having been sexually exploited or trafficked.

The sexual exploitation of children is not limited to particular racial, ethnic or socioeconomic groups, although children from poor families appear to be at somewhat higher risk of commercial sexual exploitation. In fact, most of the street children encountered in the study were Caucasian youths who had run away from middle-class families. One clear theme is the proportionate number of street youth who have histories or recurrent physical or sexual abuse at home and took to the streets in a desperate effort to bring their abuse to an end.

According to these researchers, child exploitation in the United States affects as many boys as girls, but boys are less well-served by social service and law enforcement systems because of the widespread belief that boys are better able than girls to fend for themselves. Without intervention, research has shown many boys shift from being victims of sexual abuse to victimizing other boys and girls as pimps and traffickers.




People are recruited in several different ways such as through fake employment agencies, acquaintances, newspaper ads, front businesses, word of mouth or abduction. Traffickers may be neighbors, friends, returnees, agricultural operators, owners of small businesses, diplomats and even families. Increasingly, however, the traffickers are organized crime syndicates, often in collaboration with corrupt law enforcement entities, government officials or employers, who may use several intermediaries from the first point of contact to the final destination of the victim. It the victim is transported, they use both legal and illegal means of transport and various techniques to keep their victim enslaved.

They may keep them under lock and key or in isolation from the public and from their family members or support networks, confiscate their passports or identification documents, use the threat of violence against the enslaved person or their families, threaten them with shame, fear of imprisonment or deportation, and control their money.

The psychological effects of torture are helplessness, shame and humiliation, shock, denial and disbelief, disorientation and confusion, and anxiety disorders including post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias, panic attacks and depression. Victims may experience Traumatic Bonding (Stockholm Syndrome) - a form of coercive control in which the perpetrator instills in the victim fear as well as gratitude for being allowed to live or for any other perceived favors, however small.


Reasons It’s Necessary to Join the Fight Against Human Trafficking



     According to U.S. Federal Law, sex trafficking is defined as a trafficking situation where a commercial sex act is induced by force, 

     fraud or coercion or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age.


     To put that into perspective, Justin Bieber is worth $200 million (according to Wikipedia.) That is the net worth from his career not

     per year. Human trafficking is a $32 BILLION A YEAR industry.


     This causes serious damage and deterioration to the human body and can have a lasting traumatic impact on the victim who may

      require severe medical attention and even reproductive surgery after being rescued.


     Even though the Polaris Project names California, Texas, Florida and New York as the four biggest human trafficking states in

     America, it happens in EVERY SINGLE STATE.



     This can cause fear and be used as a tactic by pimps to keep their victims from seeking help from law enforcement to get out.



     Now that you know the crime exists, it’s time to do something. Raising awareness is only the beginning. The demand for children

     for sex must stop, buyers must be prosecuted for their crimes and victims must be set free.



     Proceeds from sales and merchandise go to organizations that support victims and fight this crime.




Porn is any material that is designed to stimulate

erotic feelings in a person.

20% of pornographic images are of children; 55% of child pornography

comes from the U.S. The sale of child pornography in the U.S. has

become more than a $3 billion annual industry. In a study of 932 sex

addicts, 90% of the men, and 77% of the women indicated that looking

at pornography “played a significant role in their addiction.” Viewing

pornography essentially rewires the brain & drastically influences how

dopamine & other chemicals are received & used in the brain. 

(“Wired For Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain”)

Basic Stages of Grooming.jpg
The internet has been a boon to the pornography industry.

  *  More than 4.2 million porn web sites are accessible. 

   *  The sites generate and estimated $1 to $7 billion a year in 

   *  72 million estimated visitors to porn web sites monthly.
Porn and marriage.png
addiction to porn.png
Porn and children.png
breaking the pornography habit, by

I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.


This is a great overview of steps that can be taken to get away from the grip of pornography, provided by 

Additional information is available at their website,

Revenge Porn is yet another problem that adds tremendous trauma to victims' lives. 

The following is from an excellent article made available by:

Revenge porn is a uniquely modern phenomenon that shines a light on a fundamental flaw in how we approach consent, the internet, and acceptable behaviors in dating and relationships.

Equivalent to ‘digital rape,’ the nonconsensual sharing of sexual media can ruin lives - and often does.

While revenge porn often occurs “following the dissolution of a romantic relationship as a way in which to control the victim or ‘punish’ her/him for leaving,” not all such incidents are motivated by revenge.

If you’ve ever taken a nude selfie or been enticed into making a sexual video, you’re at risk of having it shared on the internet without your consent —through hackers, strangers, or extortionists.

For this reason, advocacy groups, activists, and researchers use many alternative terms for what’s commonly known as “revenge porn”:

  • Nonconsensual pornography (NCP)

  • Image-based sexual abuse (IBSA)

  • Digital image abuse (DIA)

  • Intimate image abuse (IIA)

  • Technology-based image abuse (TBIA)

  • Technology-facilitated Abuse (TFA)

  • Intimate photo abuse (IPA)

  • Nude image abuse (NIA)

The various terms and acronyms make discussing revenge porn incredibly confusing.

This lack of simple phrasing results from differing views and disagreements between the various parties involved in studying and campaigning against revenge porn. Both of these fields are still in their infancy, and, over time, we can expect a more cohesive language to emerge.

Defining Intimate Image Abuse

Intimate image abuse includes much more than vengeful, bitter partners who want to punish an ex for the end of their relationship.


The eSafety Commissioner of the Australian Government defines an intimate image (or video) as one that shows:

  • A person’s genital area or anal area (whether bare or covered by underwear).

  • A person’s breasts (if the person identifies as female, transgender, or intersex).

  • Private activity (for example, a person undressing, using the bathroom, showering, bathing, or engaged in sexual activity).

  • A person without attire of religious or cultural significance if they would normally wear such attire in public.


An Australian study defines intimate image abuse as:

  • The nonconsensual creation of nude or sexual images, including images that are digitally altered or manipulated to add a person’s face to a pre-existing nude or sexual image, as well as the nonconsensual creation of intimate images (e.g., ‘upskirting,’ ‘downblousing,’ or surreptitious filming in public or private places).

  • The nonconsensual distribution of nude or sexual images.

  • Threats to distribute nude or sexual images.


The three main types of revenge porn and Intimate image abuse perpetrators include:

  • Current partners (including domestic abusers) and ex-partners of victims

  • Hackers (voyeurs or cyberbullies)

  • Sextortionists


This last category deserves a side discussion, because this group has become a growing problem (particularly during the pandemic).

Finally, most experts agree that under certain circumstances, the nonconsensual sharing of sexual imagery doesn’t qualify as revenge porn or intimate image abuse. Examples include:

  • It is not revenge porn if someone shares a sexual or private photograph or video of you to prevent, detect or investigate a crime.

  • Laws state that “it is not revenge porn if the photograph or video is shared for journalism”—as part of a news story if the “journalist sharer” reasonably believed it was in the public interest.

  • It’s not revenge porn if a person or organization (website) believes that it had already been shared or published—with your consent and that you had been paid. (ie. you signed a contract allowing the images to be shared).


What is Sextortion?

Sextortion can be defined as webcam blackmail for money or sexual-image favors.

It essentially consists of three different scenarios:


1. Enticement

Victims get a message from a stranger, along with an attractive photo, who says that they are interested in getting to know the victim better - in-person via webcam.

Curiosity, boredom, or loneliness gets the better of the victim, so they set up a Skype or Zoom call.

During the call, the sextortionist convinces the victim to get nude or to perform a sexual act.

Once the sextortionist has the nude image or act on camera, they

can show it back to the victim and threaten to broadcast his/her

image or sexual act over the internet—or share it with family, friends,

or co-workers—unless the victim sends some money.

Research shows that an alarming 45 percent of perpetrators carry

out their threats. The sextortionist then sets up the money exchange

(usually demanded in Bitcoin, to complicate things and hide their

tracks). Many victims of sextortion-by-enticement are driven to

suicide as a result of being victimized. Sextortion also occurs as a

result of hacking.


2. Phishing Emails

Victims receive an email informing them that their account has been

hacked. The hackers use details like the victim’s email address and

account passwords obtained on the dark web (the result of an

unrelated hack) to convince them of their legitimacy.

The sextortionist will claim to have hacked the victim’s webcam and

recorded them masturbating while visiting porn sites. If a victim

actually has visited such sites, they may be convinced and give in to

the demands - usually money or performing a sexual act that can be

used to blackmail them further. However, in almost every case like

this, the sextortionist is bluffing and has no recordings. This type of

fraud is known as phishing, and can be used in many different forms by hackers.


3. Piracy

Hackers also actively target websites and private accounts to steal nude images and videos. This includes private webcam chat rooms and personal-email account hacks. If a hacker gets into your email account, they can steal nude photos or insert malware that allows them to control your webcam.

A famous example of such a hack was the Celebgate scandal. In 2014, a male hacker broke into the iCloud accounts of famous female celebrities and posted stolen nude photos online.

As online dating grows in popularity, the problem of intimate image abuse will continue to grow alongside this trend.

  • 74 % of adults engage in online dating or sexual intimacy.

  • Up to 1 in 5 adults are victims of revenge porn.

  • At least 1 in 10 adults are perpetrators of revenge porn.

Aside from revenge, it appears that intimate image abuse is an increasingly common form of domestic abuse against current and former partners.

  • 71% of victims report that a current or previous romantic partner had posted a nude image.

  • 65% of the perpetrators reported that their victim was also a current or ex-lover.

  • 31% of victims said that the perpetrator was a current partner

  • 39% of perpetrators said their victim was a current partner.

Aside from partners, other perpetrators included “friends, acquaintances, former friends, family members, and co-workers.”

However, a significant number of respondents had their images or videos shared by strangers or unknown perpetrators:

  • 16% of victims said their image was posted by a stranger (or were unsure of who posted it)

  • 23% of perpetrators said they posted a nude photo of a stranger.

Based on this, a worrying trend emerges.

While most revenge porn and intimate image abuse is the work of partners, it can also occur due to hacking. However, regardless of the origins, plenty of people who view revenge porn or receive it are happy to share it without considering the victim’s wellbeing - creating a ‘revenge porn chain.’

There is some support for this notion in one last statistic of interest: victims reported a mean of 1.26 perpetrators.

Key takeaways:

  • The vast majority of people across all age groups have engaged in some form of internet dating.

  • Not all intimate image abuse perpetrated by partners is ‘revenge porn’ - it can also be a form of domestic abuse.

  • The sharing of revenge porn by people unrelated to the original offense, and perhaps even strangers to the victim, is another issue that needs addressing.

What to Do if a Nude Image is Shared against Your Consent

Whether you’re a victim of revenge porn or your nude image has been hacked and shared online, all respected advocacy and legal groups offer similar advice about your very first step:

Don’t panic—take a deep breath. Don’t blame yourself—it’s not your fault. And remember—you are not alone.

After you’ve calmed yourself, take the following steps:

  • Gather all the evidence you can.

  • Take steps to remove the image from the internet.

  • Decide whether to pursue criminal or civil proceedings against the perpetrator.


1. Documenting the Incident

The most crucial action is to document the revenge porn or intimate image abuse before the perpetrator has a chance to delete it. Documentation will be essential if you decide to “pursue legal relief.”

Preserve a copy of the content.

You can take a screenshot and save it to your device, a flash drive, cloud account, or print the image.

Preserve evidence of any communication or conversations with the perpetrator also.

Report the post.

Social media sites like Facebook and YouTube have strict policies for adult content on their sites. Because adult content violates their Terms of Use, you can flag or report the content to get it removed. Facebook and YouTube remove adult content quickly without much (or any) interaction from the person who flags the content.

Back-track images to find the source.

It is not always immediately evident who posted nonconsensual pornography. You may have to do a little bit of research to identify an anonymous poster. Of course, an online defamation professional can help with this process, but there are some things you can do on your own. [Also see below for online removal resources.]

One of the simplest ways to find out the source of an image is by using Google Reverse Image Search. On your computer (or phone), simply right-click on the intimate or explicit image and select “copy image.” Then, go to Google Images and click “search by image.”

Paste the image you just copied into the search bar. The search results will point you toward all sites that have the image.

If you find the image only once, you can right-click the image and select “copy image address” to find the exact URL where the image is hosted.

Find out who hosts the website or server where the image was found.

Using the website or, you can look up the hosting provider for the website where the image was found. Enter the domain name where you found the intimate or private sexual image, and each site will provide you with information about the host.

2. Removing the Image

You have three options to remove your nonconsensual nude image:

  • Do it yourself, by visiting Online Removal Guides (ORGs) on the internet.

  • Contracting an Online Reputation Management (ORM) company.

  • Hire a content removal professional (CRP), including legal firms and online reputation management companies.

You can contact social platforms, search engines, or browsers directly to begin the process of removal, but I would recommend the ORG or CRP route.

ORMs have their own reputation for vague, perhaps unfixed service rates, plus they’re more targeted at repairing reputations, many times at the corporate level.

The U.S.-based Cyber Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI) provides clear, comprehensive steps for removing nonconsensual images from the following—Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr, Yahoo, Google, Microsoft (Bing), and Snapchat.

There are many other ORGs available online - a simple search of “Online Removal Guides” will bring up plenty. However, like many ORMs, they’re not all dedicated to just revenge porn and NCIA digital-image removal.

How to Protect Yourself Against Revenge Porn and Sextortion

The best defense against them is awareness and prevention.

Again, the world of revenge porn and intimate image abuse is in its comparative infancy. The world of online dating the new age of physical relationships, including actual intimacy.

To protect yourself from hacker-based intimate image abuse and sextortion scams, the FBI provides some guidance for handling some of your routine computer tasks:

  • Don’t open emails or attachments from unknown sources or individuals.

  • Don’t communicate with unsolicited email—even if you believe it’s legitimate. If you want to reply to an email, visit the website in the email address directly and look for a contact form.

  • Don’t provide personal information—including your whereabouts, even vacation planning—through email.

  • Be aware that many emails requesting your personal information appear to be legitimate.

  • Don’t store sensitive or embarrassing photos in the cloud or on your mobile devices. If you need to retain them, move them to a USB flash drive.

  • Always use strong passwords (long strings of letters, numbers, or symbols), and always create a different password for each online or social-media account you use. Think of purchasing a password management tool (LogMe OnceZoho Vault (for legal teams), DashlaneKeeperLastPassRoboFormBossSticky Password, and Bitwarden (a free, open-source password manager) to help you remember passwords.
    Turn off your computer, webcam, and microphone when you’re not using them.

  • Keep your webcam covered when not in use—cardstock cut to width and length is fine—to prevent reverse webcam spying.

This information has been provided by:

bottom of page