NEW JERSEY – Legislation sponsored by Senator Steven Oroho (R-24) and Senator Fred Madden (D-4) that would establish the crime of sexual extortion to fight a growing trend frequently victimizing minors was advanced Monday by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Law enforcement agencies have cited an alarming increase in reports of sexual extortion, or sextortion, which often victimizes teenagers and children who are targeted by adults online.
“This despicable conduct cannot be tolerated,” said Oroho (R-24). “This is cyber bullying at the highest level, and the young victims deserve the support and protection offered by this bill.
“It is time to empower the legal system to identify, convict and punish the perpetrators with a law that fits the crime,” Oroho said.
Sextortion victims are threatened or coerced into engaging in sexual activity or to providing explicit photos or videos to the offender.
“The emotional and psychological damage these violations can have on young people in unimaginable,” Oroho said. “The Legislature has a moral duty to pass this aggressive measure classifying this heinous abuse as a crime and protecting our children.”
“Recently, a 17-year-old boy took his own life due to severe sexual extortion on social media. This crime is inhumane and has proven to be fatal on numerous occasions. It is a grievous form of exploitation and harassment. Especially with the prevalence of social media, cases of sexual extortion continue to increase,” said Madden (D-Camden/Gloucester). “This legislation is a vital step to addressing and combatting this growing epidemic. This bill provides law enforcements agents with the tools necessary to properly identify and prosecute this crime.”
Sexual extortion would be a crime of the third degree under Oroho’s bill, S-653, with a penalty of up to five years imprisonment and a $15,000 fine.
If the victim is under the age of 18 or an adult with a developmental disability, the charge would be aggravated sexual extortion, a crime of the second degree with penalties up to 10 years in prison and $150,000 in fines.
“This bill puts some real teeth in the law. Young victims are reluctant to report the abuses, feeling shame and embarrassment,” Oroho said. “When police officers identify those who are emotionally brutalizing youths, this legislation will send a powerful message that we will not tolerate this sexual bullying.”
According to the FBI, sextortion can begin on any online site, app, or game. In some cases, the interaction begins with a threat to reveal an image or video unless the victim provides more pictures.
The FBI advises on their web site that “this crime [often] starts when young people believe they are communicating with someone their own age who is interested in a relationship or with someone who is offering something of value. The adult will use threats, gifts, money, flattery, lies, or other methods to get a young person to produce an image.”
“With help from my colleagues in the Legislature and the Governor’s signature, we can turn the tables on these deviants and make them pay a stiff price for the harm they cause,” Oroho said.