Orrick Pro Bono Team Plays Large Role in Major New Report on "Sextortion" Threat

July.20.2016

Underscoring Orrick’s continuing commitment to pro bono efforts, a team of the firm’s lawyers played a large role in assembling a new report that provides the most extensive exploration to date of the mounting problem of “Sextortion.”

The report issued by Legal Momentum, Orrick and the Thomson Reuters Foundation for the first time provides a much-needed roadmap to address the problem with practical and easy to implement solutions to ensure that sextortion does not continue to proliferate, and that sextorters can be prosecuted. The report outlines an unprecedented framework for ending this form of online sexual abuse aimed at girls, teens and women.  “Sextortion” is extortion where sex or sexual images, rather than money, is demanded by someone with power over the victim. The FBI warned earlier this summer that sextortion is fast becoming one of the most serious threats to children and teens.

“A Call to Action: Ending Sextortion in the Digital Age,” highlights how easy it is to hack into computers to record and steal sexual imagery. The report also outlines the dangerous consequences and lasting harm caused by this growing sex offense, particularly to young children. The report’s “Call to Action” includes educating the public and revising our laws to combat sextortion.  It also provides tips for preventing cyber-sextortion that every parent, school, religious institution, and youth group should discuss with children and teens.

“This report is a call to action to deal with the very real threat Sextortion has become in the Digital Age,” said Orrick partner Lorraine McGowen. “Our firm is proud to have been able to provide guidance for legislators at both the state and federal level to establish laws that criminalize this conduct.”

Orrick’s involvement in the project is the latest example of the firm supporting its lawyers’ pro bono interests. The American Lawyer’s 2016 Pro Bono Report recently ranked Orrick #9 among the nation’s top 200 law firms. “We consider this type of work with public interest organizations a reflection of our emphasis on making an impact in our communities,” said Orrick Pro Bono Counsel Rene A. Kathawala.

Legislators are already mobilizing as a result of the report’s findings. Congresswoman Katherine Clark (D-Mass) stated: “When predators come after our kids in the real world, we respond with the full force of the law, and it should be no different when it happens online. As a mom of three teenagers, I find the prevalence of this heinous practice alarming. Thousands of women and children are the targets of online sexual extortion and they need to know that the justice system is on their side. Our laws need to keep pace with these threats, and I will be pushing legislation to address this crime.”

In addition to Lorraine and Rene, the Orrick team contributing to the report included associates Katie Lieberg Stowe; Kelly M. Cullen; Elizabeth Zane; Michael H. Sugarman and Christina Lee.

An executive summary of the report is available online. The full report is available for download free of charge at http://www.legalmomentum.org/sextortion.