Sextortion: The Hidden Pandemic is an investigation into the world of online grooming and sextortion–a present-day reality for one in seven children online. By unsealing the federal case of a top-gun pilot with hundreds of victims, and interviewing survivors and their parents, this true-crime piece exposes an often-overlooked crime against children, the tactics of online predators, and the voices of parents and law enforcement poised to stop online child exploitation in its tracks.
John Shehan, Vice President, Exploited Children Division The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, states that “Sextortion: The Hidden Pandemic is a must-see documentary for everyone. Sexual predators have found a way to extort children in the privacy of their homes. They don’t need a key to get in; just a device connected to the Internet. They secretly coerce their underage victims to produce sexual images, to have sex with them, or give them money. At the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, we see the devastating impact of these crimes every day.”
According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), there was a 98% increase in online enticement reports from 2019 to 2020, with the reports by the public more than doubling. Sextortion is a part of the online enticement.
Overall Cyber Tipline Reports increased from 16.9 million in 2019 and 21.7 million in 2020 to 29.3 million in 2021, which included 44,856,209 video files and 39,939,298 image files.
An insider looks into one of the largest international child sextortion cases investigated by Homeland Security and the Department of Justice on American soil, Sextortion: The Hidden Pandemic begins with an investigation of the sexual extortion–or “sextortion”–of a Virginia teen and a fourteen-year-old girl from Japan. As investigators pursue the case, surprising new details emerge–including the fact that the same suspect is behind both crimes. And further forensic research reveals hundreds of similar victims across the United States.
With unique, unrestricted access to government files, victim families, and investigators, Sextortion: The Hidden Pandemic uncovers the hidden world of online enticement and exploitation of children. Tapping into the findings of child exploitation experts, the film spotlights the common tactics of online predators, the signs that a child is being groomed online, and a documented rise in global sextortion cases.
As the film tracks the ongoing international investigation, it also reveals the investigators’ shocking discovery of the online predator behind hundreds of sextortion cases–and his attempts to escape prison and evade foreign agents. In the final act of the film, we witness the first-person account of S.M., a victim of the same international sextortion ring that victimized Canadian teen Amanda Todd, who took her own life as the result of online predation. Todd’s mom and S.M. reveal the truth behind what happened to Amanda back in 2012–and why it’s critically important for them to speak out now.
Director, Maria Peek said, “Sextortion: The Hidden Pandemic is definitely the hardest documentary I have ever made. The extremely disturbing yet timely subject matter, combined with the challenges of filming during the pandemic made making this film almost an impossible task. We had to adjust, improvise, and rely on court drawings and animation when filming just was not possible. Through our partnerships with the Department of Justice and Homeland Security, our team had unique unrestricted access to all government documents for an international sextortion case unsealed for this film for the very first time. The interviews with prosecutors, law enforcement officials, and survivors largely informed my filmmaking approach.
The written stories of survivors, obtained in person and from the court documents, have opened my eyes to the severity and cruelty of this crime, especially the psychological long-term effects on the children and their futures. It is my hope that in the same way, the eyes of the viewers will be opened – and awareness, education, and civil action will become the result of this film. We simply cannot allow this to go on. Unfortunately, the rates of sextortion across the world are skyrocketing, and many children are getting hurt by simply being online. The thought of helping so many has kept us going, and I am extremely thankful for our small filmmaking team, and all our partners who made this film possible.”
Global TVOD/Digital release on October 4th, 2022. To learn more visit: www.sextortionfilm.com
Watch the trailer here: