The student newspaper of Bucks County Community College

The Centurion

The student newspaper of Bucks County Community College

The Centurion

The student newspaper of Bucks County Community College

The Centurion

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NOVA Sextortion’s Educational Presentation & Panel Discussion

Sextortion: the threat to expose sexual images in order to make a person do something.
NOVA Sextortions Educational Presentation & Panel Discussion

The National Organization for Victim Assitance(NOVA) held a lecture and discussion panel educating the public about sextortion on Oct. 16 held by Bucks County Community College.

Sextortion is a heinous sexual crime that affects both children and adults alike; a sexual crime that is gaining increased attention due to its heightened proliferation in this digital age. Founded in 1974, NOVA is a comprehensive victim service agency that serves Bucks County and offers trauma-informed counseling, victim advocacy, prevention education for safer communities as well as forensic services for victims of abuse.

The event’s panel consisted of informative lectures from members of the NOVA organization, Jamie Pfister, Tory Baram and Brianna Dion, as well as Detective Lou Bell of the Hilltown Township Police Department. The audience gathered in the Gallagher Room was presented with an informative PowerPoint presentation that brought awareness to the various challenges individuals and advocates face concerning this difficult issue.

NOVA’s panelists informed the crowd that sextortion is not a new crime. Before 1997, sextortion typically occurred only in person but, with the advent of social media sites, its frequency increased exponentially. However, sextortion didn’t become a crime in Pennsylvania until 2019.

In the summer of 2022, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed HB 2271, or “Lindsey’s Law.” According to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape(PCAR), this is a landmark legislative measure that enhances sentencing in cases of sexual extortion where the victim suffers serious bodily injury due to a suicide attempt or dies by suicide after being extorted.

NOVA’s panelists went on to highlight the details of sextortion penalties, which entail increased sentencing and penalties for juvenile victims, as well as examples of both offline and online sextortion tactics. Over the past year, law enforcement agencies received over 7,000 reports related to online sextortion of minors, resulting in at least 3,000 victims, primarily males. Sadly, more than a dozen victims were reported to have died by suicide. Attention was brought to the recent case of Ian Pisarchuk, a 26-year-old Bensalem man sentenced to 20 to 51 years in prison for multiple sextortion crimes, one of which led to the suicide of Lindsey Piccone, the catalyst for the introduction of the aforementioned “Lindsey’s Law.”

Unfortunately, one in three victims of sextortion crimes are never reported.

Bell, a veteran of law enforcement since 1989 who also works as a Forensic Interviewer with the Bucks County Children’s Advocacy Center under the NOVA organization, went on to discuss what law enforcement can do as well as the investigative process and its limitations concerning digital forensics. He brought attention to various social media apps that perpetrators use to access victims such as Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Bumble and Kik, to name a few, and discussed the numerous sordid tactics these perpetrators utilize.

Various panelists discussed behavioral indicators in victims, the profound psychological impact of these crimes, and “do’s and don’ts” for social media. Also discussed were effective responses to support victims as well as the immediate response; stop the chat, take screenshots, block the perpetrator’s account and report the crime to the CyberTip Line. Listed resources for reporting are Thorn, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), MaleSurvivor, the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) and of course, NOVA.

Bell conceded that, while there are numerous resources for reporting such crimes, the willingness of victims to come forward is not easy. He said “Some victims are hesitant to contact the police because they are embarrassed and feel ‘stupid’ that they were conned into sending images of themselves. They also are fearful of additional people they don’t know, such as police officers will see their naked images and videos,”

“We understand the humiliation and reluctance to report, however, one question victims should ask themselves is, ‘if the person who was victimized before I was had reported this, would that have prevented me from becoming a victim as well?’” Bell added.

He also discussed the important role parents play in the safety of their children. “Parents have to evaluate the actual need of a child under 15 years old to possess a smart device for everyday, personal use,” he said, “kids always want what their peers possess, and parents want their kids to have everything but they need to ask ‘St what risk are we providing iPhones that can access pornography with a mistyped search word?’”  He went on to “recommend setting parental controls on devices of younger kids into at least their mid-teens.”

For those interested in becoming involved with this important issue, Pfister said “One of the best ways to get involved is to help raise awareness. Attend a training, join NOVA’s coalition, communicate with the young people in your life about the concerns of digital safety, or volunteer with NOVA to help spread the word about our vision to eliminate crime in our communities.”

For additional information about volunteer opportunities with NOVA, you can visit Victims can also use this address to report crimes as well as the 1-800-675-6900 24/7 Helpline and text line at 267-323-4545.