MORGAN NICK FOUNDATION: LOVE ALWAYS HOPES (Part 3: Identifying A Predator & Sextortion)

160622192455 sextortion chart 780x439“What does a sexual predator look like?” asks Genevie Strickland, Case Manager/Director of Education for the Morgan Nick Foundation. “Most people, including kids, think the predator is just some creepy old man and that’s what they are looking for. But that’s not always the reality.”

There is no specific profile of what a person wanting to engage in sexual contact with a juvenile, often called sexual predators, look like. The predator can be any age or gender, and they will likely use that to their advantage to harm your child.

“Almost always, kids think predators are old men going after girls, but online predators are men and women equally,” she said. “Sexual predators are often young and they go after boys and girls equally. It’s not the stereotype we thought it was five years ago. It’s evolved and changed.”

When the sexual predator makes contact with a child online, they usually lie about who they are, including how old they are, and sometimes their gender. Strickland, who gives presentations to children at schools throughout Arkansas and portions of Oklahoma, can often make the children aware of the danger by asking them questions.

“I ask them how old they were when they created a profile on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram,” she said.

Many social media sites have age restrictions, but due to the lack of monitoring and/or verification measures, a child can easily bypass the restriction simply by saying they are older.

“So, I ask them if they lied about their age to get what they want, and most admit they did,” Strickland said. “Then I ask, “Why do you think that someone else won’t lie to you to get what they want? They need to be aware that can happen.”

Those lies can lead to a form of online blackmail called Sextortion. There are numerous news stories throughout the U.S. of children falling victim to Sextortion scams. It often starts with a simple “flash” of a body part, which leads to a sexual predator threatening to expose them to family and/or their friends, unless they abide by their commands. Strickland said all adults need to know how serious of a problem Sexting and Sextortion is among children in all communities and in their own schools.

“Kids, unfortunately as young as 4th and 5th grade, are very familiar with it,” she said. “I’m very honest with them about it. We know kids and adults do this, but they need to understand what the loss is when they do that. Most of the kids don’t know what the loss is.”

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children states that, “As a result of sextortion, child victims commonly experienced a range of negative outcomes, including hopelessness, fear, anxiety and depression. Overall, it was indicated in 13% of CyberTipline sextortion reports that the child victim had experienced some type of negative outcome. Of those reports with some type of negative outcome, it was indicated that about 1 in 3 children (31%; 4% of all sextortion reports) had engaged in self-harm, threatened suicide or attempted suicide as a result of the victimization.” And that is just from those that reported the Sextortion. How many children were victims who did not make a report due to fear of getting in trouble or believe the problem will go away?

“I ask kids if they thought about the fact that someone can take a screen shot when they show themselves, and then what happens to those photos or videos?” Strickland asks. “86 percent of all sexting pictures and videos end up on adult websites. We tell kids this is the chance you are taking and once it gets out there, you can’t get it back. You can delete from your computer or phone, but it’s still out there.”

She said even when a child thinks they are sending the pictures or video to a trusted friend, it can easily end up being shown to someone else. Strickland uses the example of a rumor – they tell a friend and ask them not to tell anyone, but “by lunch time the whole school knows.”

“The kids get that immediately,” she said. “They’ll look at their friends and say, ‘You did that.’ I tell them that’s how those pictures work. You think you are just showing it to one person, but within 6-clicks of a button 8,000 people can see that picture or video. And that’s a minimum example.”

Sextortion most commonly occurs via cellphone, laptop and tablet messaging apps, social network sites and video chatrooms. They can also occur during online gaming as well. There is also a closer way Sextortion can occur – it can happen in your own neighborhood. During her presentations to school children, Strickland tells them about online predator cases that occurred in Arkansas, and sometimes from their own town.

“This is another reason we ask children to understand that parents should always know where they are at and what they are doing,” she said. “Even if it is to help their neighbor with taking in groceries or something, so the parent knows where their child is at and how long they’ve been gone.”

Strickland said though the facts will scare children and parents, the goal is to educate people.

“It is to empower you to understand what you are facing to help you make smarter choices,” she said. “We also want to help kids and parents to have solutions so they know how to handle a situation.”

For more information, visit or call 1-877-543-HOPE (4673) to schedule a presentation from Genevie Strickland. MorganNickFoundation logo