DETROIT (WXYZ) — Sextortion is a growing problem. A decade ago the number of cases was 100,000 nationwide. Last year it was 18 million.
Friday, the US Attorney in Detroit held a webinar for awareness.
Several survivors and their parents spoke out.
Teenage girls and boys are targeted by people who hide behind social media and phone apps. They can be total strangers or neighbors down the street. They get one revealing photo and then use it as leverage to get so much more.
Relationships can move from online to in person with threats to get sex.
The survivors said they made friends online and it got so bad for them at the time they didn’t know where to turn, went into deep depression, failed in school and harmed themselves.
The case of Amanda Todd has become a rallying point. She was targeted when she was in the 7th grade, flashed herself once on a live webcam and it was used against her.
She made videos of her trouble. She was bullied and shamed at school and eventually committed suicide. Her cause is now documented at amandatoddlegacy.org.
US Attorney Matthew Schneider in Detroit says he’s made this a top priority in his office and assigned staff on the cases.
He says Detroit is now leading the nation, even though cases are not easy to develop.
To report a sextortion case, contact the FBI in Grand Rapids at 616-456-5489.