understanding sexual extortion over nude images

Sextortion or sexual blackmail is a problem affecting lots of young people in Australia – especially young men. It can feel scary if you are being sextorted, and we want you to know you’re not alone.

Because sextortion may make you feel things like shame and fear, we have put together some information to help you get some support and report what is happening – if that’s what you choose to do. 


What is sextortion? 

When somebody threatens to share a sexual picture or video of you as a way of making you do what they want, this is called ‘sexual blackmail’ or ‘sextortion’. If this is happening to you, you are not to blame. The person or people who are doing this are in the wrong and breaking the law.   

The person who is threatening you might be somebody using a fake online account, someone you know, or a person you met online. In Australia, it’s common for the person who is threatening you to be part of a group of people who are working together to break the law by scaring you into giving them money. The people who do this are very good at tricking others so if you feel foolish for believing what they say, there’s no shame in this and it’s not your fault.  

Some examples of sextortion might include things like: 

  • Somebody using a fake online account keeps sending you threatening messages saying they will share your sexual pictures if you don’t send them money, gift cards, or gaming credits  
  • A person you sent photos to in the past threatens to share them with your family or friends if you don’t send them more pictures  
  • Somebody you met online tells you they have sexual photos or videos of you that they will share with others unless you do what they say  


Sometimes sextortion happens as part of intimate partner violence, cyberbullying, child abuse, or other kinds of image-based abuse. If someone is doing this to you, there are things that you can do to get support with what’s going on. 

What are the warning signs? 

Everyone’s experience of sextortion is different but some things to look out for are feeling pressured, tricked or made to feel bad about yourself if you don’t share your sexual photos or videos. If you’re not sure whether you’re experiencing sextortion, but something doesn’t feel quite right, it’s best to trust your gut feeling, take a break from the chat, and talk to somebody you trust about what’s going on.


What’s the difference between sexting and sextortion? 

It’s ok to be curious about sexting, and if you’re trying to figure out whether it’s right for you, it can be helpful to learn more about the law surrounding sexting. You can check out Youth Law Australia to find out more. 

Sexting with a person you trust can be a positive experience however sextortion is different because it involves feeling pressured to do something by somebody who is threatening to share your pictures without your consent. 


What if I shared my picture with them in the first place? 

Some young people feel worried that they are to blame for sextortion because they might have initially shared their picture or video with the person who is threatening them. 

We should be able to trust people to keep our images private and often people who threaten to share them might say and do things to make you feel like you can trust them initially. Then once they have gained your trust, they use this power to try and control you.  

This can feel distressing and it’s important to know it’s not your fault. Sextortion is a crime and it’s never ok for somebody to threaten to share your images without your consent. 


How common is sextortion? 

Sadly, the rates of sexual blackmail have been going up and a survey of people aged 12-17 found that around 1 in 20 young people had experienced sextortion. In Australia, 76% of sexual blackmail reports received in 2021-2022 were made by young men aged 18 to 24. However, sextortion can happen to anyone, and there’s support on your side to help. 

What are the effects of sextortion? 

  • Some people who experience sextortion describe things like: 
  • Feeling scared, anxious, or trapped  
  • Having negative thoughts about themselves, including self-blame 
  • Feeling angry with the person who is threatening them  
  • Feeling shame, embarrassment, or pressure to keep it a secret  
  • Worrying about other people finding out and finding it tough to trust others  
  • Having a hard time doing the things they usually do, like working or studying, hanging out with friends, or spending time online  


The stress of sextortion can have a big impact on your mental health and some young people might experience thoughts of self-harm or suicide. 

This is a scary space to be in and often it’s our minds ways of telling us that we’re overwhelmed and that we need support to help us to cope.   

If you’ve noticed thoughts of self-harm or suicide, it’s important to reach out for support. If you don’t feel ready to talk to somebody you know, there are lots of free, confidential support services that can help. 


How long does sextortion last? 

Everyone’s experience is different so it’s hard to know how long sextortion will last. Although it might feel like you can stop sextortion by sending the person money or doing what they say, often this doesn’t work. It can help to talk to someone you trust and report what’s happening as early as you can.


What might get in the way of reaching out for support?

It’s common to feel worried about reaching out for support. Some of the reasons you might feel scared to talk about what’s happening could include things like: 

  • The person who is threatening you tries to stop you from telling anybody else by saying that they will share your pictures if you talk about what’s going on. 
    • If this is happening to you, it can feel scary and it makes sense that you’re feeling this way. However, talking about what’s going on helps you to get some support to change the situation so you don’t feel so alone. 

  • Feeling embarrassment, shame, or blaming yourself  
    • It’s common to experience feelings of embarrassment or shame. It’s important to know that what’s happening is not your fault and talking about things can help to take the power away from these feelings. 

  • Worrying about getting yourself or other people into trouble 
    • Sometimes you might worry about getting yourself or somebody else into trouble. You are not to blame for sextortion and talking about your experience can help you to explore your options for reporting what’s happening – even if you choose not to do so. If you’re worried about telling your family, you can reach out to free, confidential, online support services like eheadspace that can help you to figure out the best next steps.  

  • Worrying that other people might not be supportive or take your concerns seriously  
    • Sextortion is serious and it can feel hard to know what to do and how to look after yourself without support. Talking about your experience with somebody you trust or reaching out to a free, confidential, support service can help you to make sense of your experience and figure out new ways to cope. 


Talking about your experience with somebody who you trust can help you to cope with what you’re feeling and figure out the best way to respond to the situation. 


What support options are available to help? 


Support in a crisis 

If you’re worried about your immediate safety or the safety of somebody else, contact emergency services by calling 000. You won’t get in trouble for doing this – it’s a strength to reach out in a crisis and when you do, the people who you talk to can help you to cope with what you’re going through. 


Mental health support 

If you’re not sure what to do or you’ve noticed changes in yourself, now might be a good time to reach out to somebody you trust to get some support – like a trusted adult, a GP, or a mental health professional. There are mental health professionals at headspace centres and eheadspace (online and phone support) who can help too. If you’re at school, TAFE or uni, you may also be able to access a counselling or student wellbeing service. 


eSafety Support  

If you are 18 or over, you can report sextortion to the eSafety Commissioner. They provide free, confidential, information and advice on how to respond to sextortion including exploring your options for legal support, getting your images removed if they have already been shared, and ways to promote your online safety.  

If you’re under 18, it can help to talk to a trusted adult about what’s going on. Together, you can report sextortion to the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation

If you choose to report what’s happening, you may be asked to provide evidence. Evidence can include things like a record of the name or contact details of the person who has been threatening you, information about what they were saying or doing, and the name of any social media apps or websites where the person contacted you. You can learn more about collecting evidence by reading this guide by the eSafety Commissioner



How to look after yourself 

If sextortion is happening to you, there are things you can do support your mental health like keeping a routine, getting good sleep, and staying connected with supportive family and friends. If you’d like to learn more about ways you can look after yourself, you can check out our 7 tips to a healthy headspace



Home | 1800RESPECT  

Dealing with sexual extortion | eSafety Commissioner  

Someone is threatening to share my nudes | eSafety Commissioner

What you need to know about sexting | Kids Helpline  

Tips for a healthy headspace | headspace 


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Last reviewed 12 October 2023 

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