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FBI sees troubling rise of child sextortion schemes in Northern Arkansas

Mountain Home parents, it’s time to be on guard.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Little Rock field office has recently announced that it is seeing an uptick in sextortion schemes targeting minors in Northern Arkansas.

The FBI and various local agencies have been receiving reports of child predators attempting to gain access to young boys in an attempt to get them to send sexual videos of themselves to the predator before extorting money from them.

The scheme involves the predator, often posing as a young girl or woman on social media, using deception and manipulation to convince the young male, roughly between the ages of 13-17, to engage in sexual behaviors on video chat.

During the chat, the video is secretly recorded. After the video chat ends, the predator informs the child that they recorded the video, before threatening to release the video on social media.

They then ask for money to keep the video a secret, often demanding that the child give them access to their bank accounts or send them gift cards.

Sextortion is a serious crime, and carries heavy penalties, including life sentences for predators. The FBI notes that these predators often have multiple victims around the world, so when victims come forward to out these individuals, it often prevents countless other children from becoming victims through sexual exploitation.

The prevalence of child sexual abuse is difficult to determine because it is often not reported; experts agree that the incidence is far greater than what is reported to authorities.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Children’s Bureau report Child Maltreatment 2010 found that 9.2% of victimized children were sexually assaulted (page 24).

Studies by David Finkelhor, Director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, show that:

  •  1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse;
  •  Self-report studies show that 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident;
  •  During a one-year period in the U.S., 16% of youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
  •  Over the course of their lifetime, 28% of U.S. youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
  •  Children are most vulnerable to CSA between the ages of 7 and 13.

According to a 2003 National Institute of Justice report, 3 out of 4 adolescents who have been sexually assaulted were victimized by someone they knew well (page 5).

A Bureau of Justice Statistics report shows 1.6 % (sixteen out of one thousand) of children between the ages of 12-17 were victims of rape/sexual assault (page 18).

A study conducted in 1986 found that 63% of women who had suffered sexual abuse by a family member also reported a rape or attempted rape after the age of 14. Recent studies in 2000, 2002, and 2005 have all concluded similar results.

Children who had an experience of rape or attempted rape in their adolescent years were 13.7 times more likely to experience rape or attempted rape in their first year of college.

A child who is the victim of prolonged sexual abuse usually develops low self-esteem, a feeling of worthlessness and an abnormal or distorted view of sex. The child may become withdrawn and mistrustful of adults, and can become suicidal.

Children who do not live with both parents as well as children living in homes marked by parental discord, divorce, or domestic violence, have a higher risk of being sexually abused.

In the vast majority of cases where there is credible evidence that a child has been penetrated, only between 5 and 15% of those children will have genital injuries consistent with sexual abuse.

Child sexual abuse is not solely restricted to physical contact; such abuse could include noncontact abuse, such as exposure, voyeurism, and child pornography.

Compared to those with no history of sexual abuse, young males who were sexually abused were five times more likely to cause teen pregnancy, three times more likely to have multiple sexual partners and two times more likely to have unprotected sex, according to the study published online and in the June print issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.

The Baxter County Sherriff’s Office currently has 51 sex offenders on file, with two of the offenders being listed as Level 4 offenders. Level 4 offenders are listed as sexually dangerous persons, who often struggle with impaired judgement and control over their violent or sexual compulsions.

The rest of the county’s sex offenders fall between Level 3 and Level 2, meaning they are repeat offenders and have various degrees of sexual deviancy, repeat offenses, and a history of relapses from treatment.

Here are some tips to protect adults and children online:

  •   Parents and children need to be selective about what they share online. If social media accounts are open to everyone, offenders can easily learn about parents and their children, and then use that information for predatory purposes.
  •   Be wary of anyone you encounter online. Block or ignore messages from strangers.
  •   Predators can pretend to be anyone online. Videos and photos are not proof that a person is who they claim to be.
  •   Be highly suspicious if someone you meet on a game or app asks you to start communicating with them on a different platform.
  •   Encourage children to report suspicious behavior to a trusted adult.

If you know someone who may be a victim of sextortion in Arkansas:

  •   Contact the FBI’s Arkansas Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force at 501-221-9100.
  •   Do not delete anything before law enforcement is able to review it.

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