TRENTON, N.J. – Sextortion – the act of threatening to share nude or explicit images and videos to extort victims – could soon become a crime in New Jersey. The Assembly Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved Assemblywoman Aura Dunn’s bill ensuring predators who engage in sexual extortion are punished to the fullest extent of the law.
“New Jersey’s most vulnerable populations – children and adults with developmental disabilities – are targeted by sexual predators who go where they go – places like online gaming sites and popular social media platforms. Crimes have evolved in the digital age and New Jersey’s laws have to keep up. Sexual extortion is a growing threat that must be addressed,” Dunn (R-Morris) said.
According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the number of sextortion reports doubled between 2019 and 2021. Offenders exploit victims to get more explicit content, in-person sexual contact, and money. Last year, the FBI said that more than 3,000 minors, primarily boys, were targeted in financial sextortion schemes. More than a dozen of the victims committed suicide.
“Victims can be so humiliated and traumatized by the experience that they take their own lives. So, in addition to parents having conversations with their children about online safety, prosecutors need the tools to properly punish predators and stop these crimes,” Dunn added.
New Jersey’s laws currently make it a crime to commit sexual assault, harassment, endanger the welfare of a child and distribute child pornography. This bill (A343) would build upon existing statutes to ensure that it is also a crime to sexually blackmail individuals of any age, regardless of whether the explicit material is actually shared.
“New Jersey needs to get tougher on these types of crimes to protect families from further devastation,” Dunn said.
Under the bill, the crime of sexual extortion is punishable with a prison term between three to five years and a fine up to $15,000. If the victim is a minor or an adult with a developmental disability, it becomes a second-degree crime that carries the presumption of a prison sentence between five and 10 years and a fine up to $150,000.
The Senate cleared its version of the bill (S653) from the judiciary and budget committees last year.