Blackmail on the Internet: an exploration of the online sexual coercion of children

Baker, I., 2022. Blackmail on the Internet: an exploration of the online sexual coercion of children. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

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The online sexual coercion of children involves an adult building a relationship with a child, the child is made to send sexual images or perform sexual acts at the direction of, the adult. It becomes a form of blackmail committed against the child through manipulation, it has serious consequences for both the victim and the perpetrator. Existing research focuses on the incidence and methods of criminality. It does not explain how sextortion develops or how a child may become vulnerable to it. This thesis aimed to tackle this by conducting four empirical studies. The first, a comparative analysis of cases revealed that perpetrators created many victims globally, offended for extended periods of time and commit offences via popular internet platforms. Most victims were blackmailed using simple methods. Prosecutions of offenders was made difficult by international borders and they gave inconsistent results.

The second study, an online survey of 461 people who used the Internet as children revealed that little action was taken to report the frequency of inappropriate online sexual contact. Within this sample 5.64% of participants were coerced into sending sexual images. The majority of these victims were subject to repeated image requests. This sub-sample of victims reported experiencing a greater number of positive emotions when being coerced than those who did not become a victim. A unique insight was provided by the qualitative interviews of studies three and four. The experiences of victims (n=9) and perpetrators (n=9) were analysed within the qualitative framework of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Common themes provided how children experienced sex on the Internet with little to prevent victimisation other than their own actions. Those becoming victims to coercion described personal problems that led them to seeking validation online. Their judgements of those abusing them were distorted due to the turmoil caused by their own negative emotions. Ultimately, this left them open to sexual coercion; the consequences of which they chose to accept or ignore.

The perpetrator interviews provided how the convicted participants felt a need to justify their actions. They further described how it was too easy to transition from innocent Internet use to compulsive online offending. This route to offending was explained in themes which clouded their personal judgements when they experienced problematic sexuality or distorted cognitions. They explained how they became focused to control and manipulate their victims for gratification. The sexual reward maintained their maladaptive coping strategies and, in some cases, strengthened the need to offend. The contribution of this thesis is its insight into the lives of the participants and the recommendations created from their experiences. The analysis suggests that earlier intervention may prevent many thousands of children becoming victims.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Baker, I.
Date: June 2022
Rights: This work is the intellectual property of the author. You may copy up to 5% of this work for private study, or personal, non-commercial reasons. Any re-use of the information contained within this document should be fully referenced, quoting the author, title, university, degree level and pagination. Queries or requests for any other use, or if a more substantial copy is required, should be directed to the owner of the Intellectual Property rights.
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 20 Dec 2022 09:50
Last Modified: 20 Dec 2022 09:50

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