Sexual abuses are in the headlines again, with West African universities rocked by the #SexForGrades expose and the #MeToo movement finally making landfall in India at the start of October. Closer to home, revenge porn, or the distribution of nudes and other sexually explicit content of a person without their consent, is officially illegal in South Africa.
On October 2, 2019, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the new Film and Publication Bill into law as part of the country's crackdown on hate speech, the dissemination of child pornography and other abuses relating to sexually explicit content, like revenge porn.
While South Africans now join the ranks of countries like Isreal, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Japan where revenge porn has been criminalised, the stigma and humiliation associated with this type of abuse may deter people from actually reporting the crimes.
One type of online abuse is sextortion, and is similar to online blackmail scams. Instead of demanding money, however, sextortionists force victims to carry out sexually explicit tasks like posing for nude photographs or videos or performing sexual acts in front of a webcam.
Carrie Goldberg is a lawyer and the author of 'Nobody’s Victim: Fighting Psychos, Stalkers, Pervs, and Trolls'. The book analyses victim protection in the era of cybercrime.
Goldberg's law firm defends victims of sextortion and helps de-anonymise harassing email and social media profiles engaged in this type of abuse. According to her, these are the five steps to follow if you are being extorted online.
Victims always fear that their abuser will post compromising images and videos online if they break their silence. Abusers rely on this silence to continue the sexual abuse.
Keeping in contact with a sextortionist means you are still within their manipulative grasp. This can go on the rest of your life unless you cut off all contact.
Evidence is key to measuring the scope, length and timeline of the exploitation. While victims could want to get rid of the memories and situations, out of embarrassment, the evidence is important ammunition.
Getting the police involved from early on is important. This also helps gather more information that can be used in future to combat sextortion and other forms of online sexual abuse.
Sextortionists often say the victim has no other choice but to obey them. A lawyer who is familiar with these types of crimes will help victims explore options that can be used to end the abuse.