One out of 20 teens reports they have been sexually extorted online, according to new research out of UW-Eau Claire.

Sexual extortion, or “sextortion,” occurs when a victim who voluntarily shares sexual images finds themselves threatened with the release of those materials unless they meet the blackmailer’s demands — many of which are sexual. The U.S. Federal Justice department identified sextortion as the fastest growing form of online bullying among children and teens.

Dr. Justin Patchin, the UW-Eau Claire researcher behind this study, surveyed of 5,500 middle and high school students nationwide and found that 5 percent of the teens he surveyed had experienced sextortion.

“Five percent isn’t a huge number but it’s still a lot of young people and so it’s something we can’t ignore,” Patchin said. “Most often what we hear are the threats are made to post the images online or send the images to classmates or share them to other.”

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