Michigan sextortion survivors speak out in community webinar

U.S. Attorney’s Office held webinar Friday

Local victims of 'sextortion' speak out

DETROIT – Since the COVID-19 pandemic, people are spending more time on their computers and smartphones.

The problem is that predators are too, and experts are warning parents about the dangers of online predators.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit held a webinar Friday with sextortion survivors, their parents, experts and law enforcement officials.

The young survivors spoke about what they endured and overcame.

“A lot of the girls that we’ve seen who are victims have told us they’re stronger together, they’re stronger when they can talk about it, when they can finally talk about it with their friends or their families," said U.S. Attorney Matt Schneider.

“Sextortion” is a type of online child exploitation. Victims are coerced into giving sexually explicit images or videos, often along with a threat being against them or their families.

“Do you think we don’t know? That we don’t know that you’re out there? Of course we do. You have access to technology, so does the FBI," Schneider said. “We’re able to track you... We are on these cases.”

Experts are reminding parents to limit their kids screen time and watch for signs.

If your child starts acting withdrawn or loses interest in their favorite hobbies, talk to them. Blockers and filters are another way to prevent your child from harmful content and predators lurking online.

“When somebody abuses a child, it’s never the child’s fault. It’s the predator’s fault, but we always have to make sure that’s always perfectly known,” Schneider said.

About the Authors:

Priya joined WDIV-Local 4 in 2013 as a reporter and fill-in anchor. Education: B.A. in Communications/Post Grad in Advanced Journalism

DeJanay Booth joined WDIV as a web producer in July 2020. She previously worked as a news reporter in New Mexico before moving back to Michigan.