May 23, 2023 |

Photo – Sextortion – The Hidden Pandemic – Movie Poster – Courtesy

Law Enforcement agencies across the country are teaming up to spread the word about the dangers of sharing private photos online.

Sexting, or sending sexually explicit messages and pictures online, has become an epidemic among young people. Rawlins Police Lieutenant Daria Hooper said teens are learning that the person they are having a conversation with isn’t always who they thought.

Often, the other party will begin to demand the teen either continue to send explicit pictures or perform other acts. The perpetrator will threaten to release the photographs they already have if the young person doesn’t comply with their demands. When that happens, it is called “Sextortion”.

Lt. Hooper said she has seen at least five cases of sextortion in Rawlins within the past year. The Lieutenant said the victims were between 14 and 17 years old.

To combat rising incidents of sextortion, Uprising Wyoming, a non-profit organization that helps communities confront human trafficking and exploitation, is hosting a series of movie screening and panel discussions across the state. Tomorrow, May 24th, Uprising will be at the Rawlins High School Auditorium. During the presentation, Uprising will show Maria Peek’s 2022 documentary on the subject, “Sextortion: The Hidden Pandemic.” Wyoming Uprising Executive Director Terri Markham explained the reason behind her organization’s education campaign.

Markham said sextortion is often very damaging to the victim. The Uprising director said youth will often hide the fact that they are being sextorted, which can lead to emotional detachment, self-harm, or worse.

Markham said her organization is seeing an uptick in the number of young boys being targeted through online gaming.

The Uprising director said young folks need to be on the lookout for people asking them to communicate in a different chat program. She said that is a red flag.

Markham said communication is the key to preventing sextortion. Lt. Hooper agreed, adding that parents should keep a close eye on what their kids are doing online.

Lt. Hooper said children from all socio-economic backgrounds can fall victim to this crime. The Lieutenant said people often assume only poor or unsupervised kids are targeted by online predators.

Markham explained some of the signs of sextortion parents should be on the lookout for.

Markham said tomorrow’s film and discussion panel will help give kids and parents the tools needed to help prevent this type of crime. Representatives from the Rawlins PD, Wyoming DCI, Wyoming’s Internet Crimes against Children team, and a prosecutor from U.S. attorney’s office will be on hand after the movie to answer questions. The Uprising executive director described the event’s proceedings.

The Uprising Sextortion film screening is sponsored by the United States Department of Justice, Wyoming Victim Services, the Rawlins Police Department, and the Wyoming Department of Criminal Investigation.

Lt. Hooper said the internet offers an entirely new way for predators to reach potential victims. She advised parents to take online predation as seriously as in-person child abduction.

Tomorrow’s screening of Sextortion: The Hidden Pandemic begins at 5:30pm in the Rawlins High School Auditorium at 1401 Colorado Street. Markham will show the first hour of the movie and then open the floor to questions from the public. Admission is free.

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