We understand the importance of being a victim-led service. This means listening to everyone’s case, providing non-judgemental, personalised advice, and giving callers the tools to empower their own decision-making and put the control back in their hands. This is why we created a survey allowing anyone who had been affected by sextortion to share their experiences. We hope that if you have been affected by sextortion, hearing the voices of people who have been in a similar position may provide some reassurance.
Most responses were from people we had who directly contacted the Helpline. However, we also advertised the survey on our website for people who had not been directly supported but wanted to share their experiences. The survey could be answered anonymously, and questions ranged from multiple-choice to open-ended answers. Responders consented to have their quotes used for the purpose of this research and our #CutOffTheCatfish campaign.
So, what did the responses say?
The survey asked what advice they would give to others receiving these threats. Responses emphasised the importance of remaining calm and not sending money. One respondent said, “Try not to panic, don’t pay and even if the perpetrator says don’t block them, block them anyway”. Another added, “It’s very hard. But remain calm, use logic”.
People advised blocking and reporting the blackmailers accounts, some of the advice they provided for others included:
Stop contact immediately and block all socials, the longer you wait the more time they have to access things like friends list
Get evidence, report to the police and use the StopNCII.org platform
Don't engage with the perpetrator, block and report any accounts they attempt to contact you"
Make contact with 1 trusted person who can let you know if anything gets shared and will be able to report the account on your behalf
Please remember that however you are feeling, this will not last forever, “it’s not the end of the world and it will pass”.
You have not done anything wrong, “don't beat yourself up, always look forward.”
There is support available “just ride it out and seek help from your friends and the authorities. Talking to people helps and there’s a lot of great resources out there.”
Reaching out to the Helpline
We know that speaking to a Helpline practitioner about something so personal may seem frightening, so we asked people about their experience contacting the Helpline. “The practitioner was very reassuring and said the perpetrators never normally follow through. So far she is correct”.
People used words such as ‘helpful’, ‘calming’, and ‘supportive’ when describing their conversations, “the practitioner was helpful and supportive and really helped me”. One person expressed their relief at talking things through, “the practitioner I spoke to was very polite and helpful with the situation I was in. I felt so much better after I explained what had happened as I didn’t know who to talk to”.
Accessing Advice and Support
The Helpline offers practical support on how to remove content shared publicly and advice on reporting violating social media accounts, “the Helpline helped me take down the offending account by escalating it to Instagram. They informed me once this was done and I was very pleased”. These practical solutions can be reassuring, “The service reported the scammers and removed their accounts from Instagram and Snapchat. This really helped ease my mind”.
Overall, respondents agreed they felt better after accessing support, “It took a weight off my shoulders. Trying to work with no sleep and the constant threat was really getting me down”. If you have been affected by sextortion, please contact the helpline for more support, “The service I received was prompt and reassuring, helped me to calm down and overcome my anxiety”. Remember you are not alone, you’ve done nothing wrong, and you deserve support.