🔴 Sextortion could soon be a serious crime in New Jersey

 🔴 A bill passed by the NJ Assembly would make the threat of sextortion a criminal offense

 🔴 The FBI says threats against teen boys have “exploded” in recent months

Sextortion, the act of threatening to share naked or explicit images of someone online unless they engage in some other action or pay a certain amount of money, is not a crime in New Jersey but it soon could be.

The state Assembly has unanimously approved a measure, A343, sponsored by Assemblywoman Aura Dunn, R-Morris, to make sextortion a serious crime in the Garden State.

“This is a growing issue and teenage boys are really the most targeted in this instance," she said.

Last month the FBI issued an updated warning about “an explosion” of incidents involving children and teens, especially boys, being coerced to send explicit sexual images of themselves online, and then being extorted for money by offenders posing as teen girls.

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Engage in sextortion, go to prison

The legislation makes it a third-degree crime, punishable by up to three to five years in prison, to demand money and threaten to expose nude pictures.

If the victim in the case is a minor or someone with developmental disabilities, it would be bumped up to become a second-degree crime, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $150,000.

Dunn said New Jersey currently criminalizes sexual assault, harassment, endangering the welfare of a child and distributing child pornography, which could be applied in certain, but not all sextortion cases.

Her bill would make it a crime to blackmail an individual of any age with threats to do harm by exposing the victim.

Sextortion is an increasing problem with serious consequences

Dunn said that as the number of sextortion cases has climbed into the thousands over the past few years, at least a dozen teens have become so distraught they have taken their own lives.

“We want the victims to know that they are not alone through this, they are not isolated, there is help, you can get out from this.”

Dunn said by passing this measure and getting it signed into law a pointed message will be sent to those who engage in sextortion.

“This is a serious crime, you are creating devastation to many lives and families and you will be punished.”

According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the number of sextortion reports doubled between 2019 and 2021.

The bill is now being considered by the New Jersey State Senate.

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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