A 12-year-old boy has killed himself after falling victim to sextortion online, police in British Columbia said this morning.
The youth – whose identity has not been released – died on Oct. 12 in Prince George.
Police said he was discovered with a gunshot wound.
Following an investigation, Mounties determined that the boy “took his own life in response to online sextortion.”
Sextortion is the practice of extorting money or valuables from a victim by threatening to reveal evidence of their sexual activity, for example in the form of nude images.
In some cases, the victim is blackmailed into recording themselves performing sexual acts.
“We are calling for parents and caregivers to be honest with their youth about the dangers of online activity, especially if they are engaging in chats with people they don’t know in real life,” Jennifer Cooper from the Prince George RCMP said.
“While not every case of online sextortion will end in tragedy, the consequences of this kind of activity can follow a youth for their entire life, which needs to be something we talk about openly with our kids.”
Police said they have not yet identified a suspect.
The investigation is ongoing.
The news comes just over a year after a Dutch national was sentenced to 13 years in jail for blackmailing 12-year-old BC schoolgirl Amanda Todd.
Todd took her own life at her home in Port Coquitlam in October 2012, aged 15.
— Sextortion is a kind of blackmail in which the perpetrator threatens to reveal a person’s online sexual activity, such as intimate photos that are often obtained by deception.
— A review of 322 sextortion cases in July last year that were sent to the national sexual abuse tip line Cybertip.ca found that when gender was known, 92 per cent involved boys or young men.
— Statistics Canada reported last year that police−reported extortion cases in Canada rose by nearly 300 per cent in the last decade.
— StatCan says non−consensual distribution of intimate images involving adult or child victims increased by 194 cases in 2021, a nine−per−cent jump from the year before, and a 52−per−cent increase compared with the previous five−year average.
— Police say victims of sextortion should stop communication with their blackmailer immediately, not agree to their demands, deactivate their online account and seek help.
— Sextortion gained national attention more than a decade ago when 15−year−old Amanda Todd from Port Coquitlam died by suicide after posting a video using flash cards to describe being tormented by an anonymous cyberbully. It has been watched more than 14 million times.
— Todd’s tormentor, Dutch national Aydin Coban, was sentenced to 13 years in prison in a Canadian trial but his sentence will be served in the Netherlands, where a decision about how to convert the sentence hasn’t yet occurred.