A court in Sweden just sentenced 41-year-old Bjorn Samstrom of Stockholm to 10 years in prison for coercing 26 girls and a boy living in the U.S., Canada and Britain into performing webcam sex acts for his pleasure. He threatened to post their photos online or kill their family members if they didn’t. His sentencing brings attention to the contemporary issues of sextortion, “online rape” and revenge porn.
Samstrom forced his victims to strip naked, penetrate themselves with fingers or objects and forced some of his victims to involve other children or pets. One of the girls he victimized was 13-years-old.
He was charged with “gross rape.” According to nationalpost.com, “Under Swedish law, rape … does not have to involve intercourse, but does require an act deemed to be as serious a violation of sexual integrity as intercourse.” As such, Samstrom’s actions definitely qualify.
Despite the modern novelty of Samstrom’s crime, a 2016 report on the understudied phenomenon of online sextortion found 80 recent cases involving “uniformly male” extortionists harming over 3,000 individuals online.
Federal prosecutor Mona Sedky told broadly.com that she sees sextortion as no different to threatening someone in person with a baseball bat to remove all their clothes.
“It’s forcing someone to engage in sexual activity,” she said.
“This is a violence, domination, and anger [driven] crime. Perhaps with a healthy dose of misogyny, too.”
Studies show that lesbian, gay and bisexual internet users are far more likely than those who identify as straight to have experienced threats of or actual nonconsensual image-sharing.
A 2016 report from the Data & Society Research Institute and the Center for Innovative Public Health Research found that 15% of LGB internet users have had someone threaten to share a nude or nearly nude images of them without their permission, a rate far higher than the 2% of heterosexual internet users who have experienced the same thing.
Featured image by KatarzynaBialasiewicz via iStock