A new analysis by the Canadian Child Welfare Center shows a sharp increase in sex-related crimes targeting youth, with the majority of victims being teenage boys.
The Winnipeg-based agency says it opened 322 cases this July, up from 85 in July 2021 and just 15 in July 2019.
Of those 322 cases last month, 92 percent involved boys or young men.
In the past, the center most often saw cases of extortion of girls and young women for incriminating photos, but now that has changed, said Steven Sauer, director of Cybertip.ca in the CCCP.
“The difference is that for young girls, we often see sexual interest in girls, and so they tend to get more images, get videos from them to fuel that sexual interest,” he said. .
“In this case with boys, the difference is that these people don’t really have a sexual interest, but they do have a drive to make money.”
In many of these cases, he says, the perpetrators manipulate teenage boys to extort money from them, often posing as a young woman on social media such as Snapchat or Instagram.
“Realizing that young people, especially boys at this age, are vulnerable to manipulation tactics to get them to engage in online sexual activities…biologically, they are basically eager to comply with these kinds of requests quickly,” he said.
“There’s a lot of shame associated with this, so they’ll also be paying to hopefully moderate the distribution of that image or video.”
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This is something Derek Lints knows all too well. His son Daniel, a teenager from rural Manitoba who was a hardworking athlete and student, killed himself in February after being sexually exploited online.
In an email Thursday, Lints said he would like governments to step in and impose more rules on tech companies.
LISTEN | The parents of Daniel Lints, a 17-year-old sexually exploited teenager, speak to Electricity:
Police issue warnings
The rise in this type of crime has prompted police agencies around the world to issue urgent sextorsion warnings involving boys and young men.
The Nova Scotia RCMP issued one such warning in late July after seeing a large number of reports of money-motivated sex extortion targeting boys and girls.
The RCMP used to deal mainly with cases of sexual extortion involving girls and women, but this has recently changed, said Corporal Chris Marshall of the RCMP in Nova Scotia.
“I think what the scammers are potentially seeing is that this type of scam often works not only on young girls and young women, but also on young men and boys,” he said.
It is understandable that people will feel uncomfortable if they report it, but they need to understand that they have been victims of a crime and that it needs to be reported as soon as possible, he said.
“You have to understand that someone is using you and that is not normal,” he said.
- Online victimization of young people has increased by 37%, according to the Canadian Center for Child Welfare.
“It would be easy if you were a victim of this, you would just have to immediately cut off all contact and contact the local police.”
Part of the problem is that social media has never been more integral to young people’s lives, said Darius Blades, a teenager from Brampton, Ontario who works as a counselor for OneChild.ca, an organization dedicated to preventing child sexual exploitation.
“Personally, I feel that this addiction has a lot to do with the fact that, you know, social media was something that we were indoctrinated into. We grew up with it,” he said.
Some of the work OneChild.ca is doing includes destigmatizing the issue so that youth feel free to speak up when they are victims, he said.
“I think a lot of the problem also comes from the fact that when this happens to you, they don’t necessarily feel comfortable opening up,” he said.
“They may feel embarrassed almost because, you know, they may think they are alone in this matter, and they think they are alone in their experience and what is happening to them.”
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Blades says he thinks it’s important that parents talk to their kids about this, rather than lecture them.
“I know I shouldn’t send pictures like this to strangers online, but despite that, it still happens,” he said.
“Look at your children as human beings, as, you know, real sentient beings with your own thoughts and opinions on many of these situations. Ask them where they came from regarding these issues.”