Surrey sextortion victim speaks out, questions police response

B.C.’s Premier says people in B.C. with an image posted without their consent can now apply to the Civil Resolution Tribunal to have it taken down and seek monetary compensation. Kier Junos reports it's part of the Intimate Images Protection Act.

A Surrey woman who fell victim to sextortion is coming forward to raise awareness about the issue.

The woman, who CityNews has agreed to identify only as Sarah, says her nightmare became real at the end of January, when someone sent intimate photos of her to her father, and threatened to send them to members of her church congregation.

“(They were) saying that I owe people money and if I don’t give it to them then hundreds of photos will be sent out like these,” Sarah explained.

She and her father reported the incident to police. She says she was heartened at first after police identified one of her ex partners as a suspect.

However, Sarah says a lack of communication from investigators left her feeling like her case was not taken seriously. She’s worried similar interactions could deter other victims from going to police.

“I did my video statement, then the police told me the following day they were going to arrest my ex, but then a week later they said the most they can do is tell him these accusations are being made and if he wants to speak on it he can, if he doesn’t, he doesn’t have to,” said Sarah.

“I found that unbelievable. I think it’s sickening how he’s able to go on with his life normally and here I am anxious and not knowing what he’s going to do next. “

Despite multiple attempts to follow up with investigators after her video statement, Sarah says she did not receive responses. When she finally did hear back, she claims she was told that there was not enough evidence to track the suspect because the pictures were sent using random phone numbers and emails.

“I want to put pressure on law enforcement, because something needs to be done. I’ve seen cases like mine, sextortions. It doesn’t always have a happy ending,” Sarah explained.

“When the cop who took my case told me there was nothing much they could do, I couldn’t let that go.”

Surrey RCMP says it has seen an increase in sextortion cases

In an emailed statement to CityNews, the Surrey RCMP says it “does not generally confirm or deny an investigation exists unless there is an investigational or public safety need.”

“The reason is to protect the integrity of the investigation as well as to protect the victim’s privacy,” said the statement.

“Surrey RCMP takes reports of sextortion seriously. These types of investigations are complex in nature, and there are a variety of investigative steps that are taken in relation to these files.”

The Surrey RCMP says reports of sextortion cases have increased significantly in its jurisdiction.

In 2022 and 2023, the department says it received a total of 512 sexual extortion reports. It notes 2023 saw a 44 per cent increase over the year before.

Mounties say these figures are from reported incidents, adding the number of unreported cases is not known.

Meanwhile, Sarah says she only learned her case was still open and that officers were in the process of obtaining a warrant Tuesday after CityNews contacted the RCMP for a response.

She says she never would have had the courage to speak about it but wants other people faced with similar situations to know they are not alone.

“I want justice to be made, this is for all of them,” said Sarah. “You’re not alone. There’s people willing to help.”

If you are a victim of sextortion, the RCMP says not to comply with threats, to stop communicating with the offender, and to take a screen shot of the chat and the person’s profile.

It is also telling people to not delete your social media account or images, and to report the case to police right away.

VictimLinkBC there to support: premier

Last year, the B.C. government introduced legislation to target online sextortion and the sharing of intimate images.

The Intimate Images Protection Act is meant to “create a new, fast-track process for getting a legal decision that an intimate image was recorded or distributed without consent and ordering people to stop distributing or threatening to distribute intimate images,” the province said in 2023.

When asked on Wednesday about his thoughts related to Sarah’s case, Premier David Eby noted anyone being sextorted is able to reach out to VictimLinkBC, which will connect them with resources to help get images taken down or speak with law enforcement.

“My sincere hope is, in the vast majority of cases, when police get these calls they are providing the best response possible. I also know it can be a busy day, and I’m not making excuses because there is no excuse. If you get that response from police when you are bringing forward this concern, and you feel it isn’t the (right) response, you can also go to VictimLink,” he said.

“I know the concern is shared across law enforcement, certainly across government, about this kind of activity, that it results in real harm to people and it results in death. We will take it seriously at the provincial government level and we have the resources for people who need support.”

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