Two relatively new forms of child exploitation are sextortion and sexting. Sextortion occurs primarily online and involves blackmailing a minor to acquire sexual content (photos/videos) of the child, obtain money from the child or engage in sex with the child. Sexting, which also occurs electronically, is when a minor knowingly and voluntarily disseminates visual depictions of themselves engaging in sexually explicit behavior.
While sextortion is a criminal offense, sexting is not in Rhode Island. Because the offender is a minor, sexting is referred to Family Court. However, if a minor consensually shows their image to another minor and then that minor un-consensually distributes it to other people, it is considered child pornography distribution and becomes a criminal offense.
“It is estimated that one in four girls and one in six boys will report being sexually assaulted before they turn 18,” Kemp said. To lower that statistic, we need to change culture and environments, she said.
“We need to change the culture that perpetuates and tolerates sexual violence and change environments to be more protective. I think we’re already in the middle of a culture change when it comes to sexual violence,” she said, referring to the #MeToo Movement. “Culture changes when victims speak out. I know it’s an incredibly scary thing to do but that’s why we’re trying to build systems that allow people to be vulnerable, to feel comfortable in reporting. If that doesn’t happen, we’re not going to make those changes and we’re not going to hold people accountable who harm.”
If an individual suspects that someone is engaged in child pornography, they are asked to call the national toll-free hotline at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children – 1-800-843-5678. The center will then notify the local ICAC task force. Victims of child pornography and all forms of sexual violence can contact Day One at 401-421-4100.