By definition, a public relations (PR) crisis counselor works with people who are in extreme or desperate situations. People who have been threatened by others are in an especially vulnerable state. The same goes for those who’ve unwittingly made poor decisions and are now suffering for their actions.

Many of these people are victims of extortion, or sextortion, and they are looking for a lifeline. Fortunately, with Red Banyan’s proven skills and experience in extortion crisis management, we know how to help.

What Defines Extortion?

In legal terms, extortion is defined as the practice of obtaining something, especially money, by force or threats. The key weapon that extortionists use is fear. Extortionists instill the crippling fear that something harmful or even fatal will happen to their targeted victims unless they do exactly what they’re told.

One of the classic examples of extortion is blackmail. In cases of blackmail, an extortionist threatens to reveal potentially embarrassing or incriminating information about a victim, unless that victim gives in to the demand for money, property, or services. But payment is no guarantee the extortion will end. More often than not, the blackmailer will simply up the ante.

Extortion is also sometimes called “protection,” and is a specialty of organized crime. The name stems from criminals who offer individuals or business owners so-called “protection” from harm in exchange for payment. Of course, almost always, the harm they claim to provide protection from will handed out by those criminals themselves.

Extortion vs. Coercion

Extortion is fundamentally linked to another legal term: coercion. Coercion is the actual verbal or written threat made to the victim that allows the extortion, or theft, to take place. The coercion could take the form of implied violence, but not always. It could also be a threat to expose personal information or take government action if the victim does not comply.

Coercion preys upon the insecurities that we all have. It is one of the more unsavory aspects of human nature, but true nonetheless: people take advantage of other people for their own gain. One situation where people take undue advantage of others is in the workplace. Employee extortion is an ongoing problem, because people will often do anything to hold onto a job, and will acquiesce to unreasonable demands or threats in order to keep it. A person who views the world through rose-colored glasses and pretends this type of activity doesn’t exist, or won’t happen to them, does so at their peril.

What is Sextortion?

Another variation of extortion is sextortion. And while the crime goes back to the dawn of photography, recent advancements in technology and social media have given perpetrators a whole new set of tools with which to threaten their victims.

At its core, sextortion involves a threat to expose a sexual image of someone in order to make that person do something. And it’s very likely that victims will pay up instead of facing the embarrassment of having their private images and videos shared with friends, family members, co-workers, or the general public.

Sextortion cases can vary by gender. Male sextortion victims are asked to cough up cash in exchange for not having videos shown of themselves engaged in a sexual activity. Many men have been duped by unlawful gangs operating online, under the guise of women seeking a sexual relationship. Females are often victimized by someone who will threaten to reveal their personal information in order to force them to have sex against their will.

Extortion and Sextortion Management and PR

Because it is a heinous crime, victims seeking extortion help certainly often benefit from notifying the authorities or relying on the counsel of an attorney.  But if you retain legal counsel exclusively to address your situation, you may be at the mercy of the slow-moving nature of the judicial system. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on your looming extortion PR crisis. The threat won’t disappear by itself.

You need to take action, and do so right away. That is why it also makes sense to turn to a crisis management firm like Red Banyan. Since we are skilled and experienced in extortion PR, and operate at the accelerated pace of constant breaking news, we can not only complement the legal process, we can help you seize the upper hand in the eyes of any media coverage your case may attract—or keep it out of the press.

In our experience, there is almost always something we can say or do on a client’s behalf. The problem with waiting to seek redress through the legal system alone is that perceptions quickly take hold. And perceptions become reality. Victims of these crimes need to fight back just as swiftly and vehemently in the court of public opinion as the people who threaten them.

What Should a Victim of Sextortion Do?

When sex enters the equation, and people give into to their primal urges, they don’t always behave in a rational way. Even highly-educated people can be subject to scammers when they don’t think things through.

Many sextortion cases go unreported because people are too embarrassed to admit what they’ve done. They would rather pay an exorbitant ransom and hope the problem will go away. But it won’t. Instead, the moment you realize you’ve been victimized, the smart thing to do is call a reputable sextortion helpline. A quick search can provide you with several listings.

To help calm you down, the person on the other end of the line will likely tell you that you are not alone, and that the situation is not hopeless, especially if you take action in its early stages. Engaging with someone who is familiar with your plight is an important first step to take control of your situation.

Another step should be consulting with an experienced crisis PR firm. With a proven track record in resolving extortion PR and sextortion cases, Red Banyan has demonstrated time and again that even when the situation is desperate, consequences can be minimized and often no one may even find out about the incident.

How Red Banyan Can Help

Extortion and sextortion are deeply personal crimes that threaten to take place in the public sphere. That is precisely why, in addition to legal counsel, you need smart and seasoned crisis public relations pros at your side. Done right, skillful extortion crisis management strengthens the lawyer’s case because you are both advocating on a victim’s behalf, just with different but complementary approaches.

Our crisis and media training experts know how positive publicity can turn the tide for clients when their reputations are on the line.

To learn more about how Red Banyan can help you during a time of crisis, or help prevent a crisis situation from occurring in the first place, contact us today.