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Is Suffolk 'sextortion' case an opportunity for intervention?

The answer to the question posed in that headline, according to some child welfare advocates, is a clear "Yes."

For readers who may be unfamiliar with the details, Suffolk authorities reportedly have leveled a felony charge of aggravated sexual battery and another for alleged production of child pornography against a 13-year-old boy. Officials aren't saying much more because the investigation is still underway, but court documents indicate additional charges could be brought.

These are stunning allegations and the fact that the suspect is a juvenile makes the matter even more serious. The consequences of a conviction in such circumstances are not limited to just the possibility of incarceration. The effects of a criminal record on file have a way of staying with anyone who is found guilty for years to come, so a strong defense is needed.

Authorities allege that the current charges stem from the claim of a middle school girl who says she sent the boy nude photos of herself. She alleges he then threatened to distribute the photos to get her to perform oral sex on him. This purportedly happened in April. Documents indicate officials suspect there may be five other victims, as well.

As things stand now, the boy has already been moved out of his previous school and into an alternative district program for students facing disciplinary action.  

Meantime, child advocates and experts in the practice of "sexting" say the case presents a teaching opportunity for all parents and teenagers. They say the practice is becoming more common in the smartphone age and the key message they say that needs to be communicated to children is that once a picture gets sent, control of the image is lost.

One online safety expert offers that the best advice is to "never take a picture you don't want your parents to see." And a researcher of sexting says that even if "sextortion" is tried, victims should know that they don't have to submit.  

Source: The Virginian-Pilot, "Suffolk boy, 13, charged in alleged "sextortion" case," Scott Daugherty, May 28, 2014

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