If you're a young person who grew up using the internet, chances are good that you're familiar with phrases like "revenge porn," and "cyberbullying," but have you ever heard of "sextortion?"
It's a real thing — so real that the FBI made a video to explain it — and Pretty Little Liars actress Shay Mitchell is trying to put an end to it. Mitchell teamed up with Thorn, a nonprofit organization cofounded by Ashton Kutcher, that builds technology to defend kids from sexual abuse, to create a social campaign and video about sextortion.
The first step in the campaign is to watch Mitchell's video and learn what sextortion is:
Basically, sextortion happens when someone threatens to share your personal, sexual photos or videos with others in hopes that you'll send more nudes or perform sexual favors or do something else you don't want to do.
According to a Thorn survey shared with Refinery29, for which the company talked to 1,631 people who were harassed in this way, about 45% of perpetrators carry out their threats and 1 in every 3 survivors don't talk about the abuse out of shame or embarrassment.
It's the silence and shame that Thorn and Mitchell are aiming to end, by asking those who watch the video to share it (or even just what they learned about sextortion) with friends. It's important to let your friends know that you'd have their back if they were ever faced with this kind of harassment and that you wouldn't judge them for sending sexual photos in the first place.
"The reason I didn't want to speak up is because I was afraid of what the adults in my life might think of me," a 17-year-old girl said in the Thorn survey, according to their website. "I thought it was all my fault and I figured that's what they would tell me."
The first step in stopping sextortion, according to Thorn and Mitchell, is talking about it. So, Thorn has provided some tips both for survivors and for their friends about how to bring up the abuse and support each other. Anyone who doesn't want to tell people they know can also text ‘THORN’ to 741741 and talk to a trained Crisis Text Line counselor for support.
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