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For the first time in the history of the world, the global connectivity of the Internet means that you don’t have to be in the same country as someone to sexually menace that person.
The problem of this new sex crime of the digital age, fueled by ubiquitous Internet connections and webcams, is almost entirely unstudied. Brock Nicholson, head of Homeland Security Investigations in Atlanta, Georgia, recently said of online sextoriton, “Predators used to stalk playgrounds.
If the prosecutorial estimates in the various cases are to be believed, the number of actual victims probably ranges between 3,000 and 6,500―and, for reasons we explain below, may be much higher even than that.
As the teenage child of one of the present authors put the matter, “You just can’t put a portable porn studio in the hands of every teenager in the country and not expect bad things to happen.” This paper represents an effort―to our knowledge the first―to study in depth and across jurisdictions the problems of sextortion.
The perpetrator wanted a pornographic video of the victim.
We found nearly 80 such cases involving, by conservative estimates, more than 3,000 victims. Prosecutors colloquially call this sort of crime “sextortion.” And while not all cases are as sophisticated as this one, a great many sextortion cases have taken place―in federal courts, in state courts, and internationally―over a relatively short span of time.When the victim opened the email, she found sexually explicit photos of herself attached and information that detailed where she worked.Following that were details of her personal life: her husband and her three kids. The demand made this hack different: This computer intrusion was not about money.Mijangos’ actions constitute serial online sexual abuse—something, we shall argue, akin to virtual sexual assault.As the prosecutor said in the case, Mijangos “play[ed] psychological games with his victims” His victims reported signs of immense psychological stress, noting that they had “trouble concentrating, appetite change, increased school and family stress, lack of trust in others, and a desire to be alone.” * * * As bizarre as the Mijangos case may sound, his conduct turns out to be not all that unusual.