ZOE Japan Team Member Writes About a Way to Prevent Exploitation of Children


Sextortion is a combination of the words sex & extortion.

A perpetrator would befriend a person online and convince them to send nude images or videos, and then start to threaten and force them into paying money or complying with more extreme sexual demands such as sending more sexual images or even forcing them into prostitution.

In general, most people would immediately call the police or ask for help if they are blackmailed, but when someone says, “If you don’t want your naked pictures shared with others, you have to pay up!” then there is a sense of shame mixed in. When a victim realizes that their sexual photos or videos may be released to the public, they feel a strong sense of guilt, causing them to fear reporting the incident to the police and becoming more and more isolated.

Without exception, all children that contacted our ZOE Japan hotline between July and September, refused to tell their parents or the police about their exploitation. Often, one of the reasons cited is: “I don’t want my parents to know that I am having sexual relations with others.”

How sad to think that children are victims of sexual exploitation, but feel unable to ask their parents for help or consult with police or lawyers. One of the reasons behind this is the lack of sex education in Japan.

According to one survey, about 80% of Japanese households raising children say that they do not provide sex education at home, or that they feel the need for it but do not provide it. Culturally, talking about anything sexual is taboo and is left to schools. However, policies such as “hadome” rules are enforced in schools, which means that teachers are not allowed to teach students about sexual activity itself. Things like conception and pregnancy are taught, but the process (physical sexual acts) is not explained, causing children to become curious and seek information through other sources or try to experience it themselves.

Age appropriate sex education is essential in helping children to realize what is happening to them and can even prevent them from becoming a victim of sexual exploitation. By openly discussing such issues in a safe environment at home, it can lay a strong foundation that enables children to reach out to their parents or a trusted adult when they are in a situation of being victimized.

One survivor who came to ZOE Japan for advice was routinely verbally abused and threatened by a man she met on social media, and was at the mercy of her abuser. However, she was ashamed of the fact that she had a boyfriend and sexual relations with him, and she did not want to tell her parents or teachers because she felt like she was doing something wrong.

If this child’s parents had established a relationship in which they could talk openly about romantic relationships and sex, she might have opened up to her parents, or even agreed to talk to the police (who require that parents are informed first) so that she could receive loving support, and exploitation of other children could be prevented.

Even for small children, simple instructions like: “Run and tell mommy or daddy when someone tries to touch or take pictures of the inside of your underwear, because it’s an important body part. Remember that it is not your fault” can prevent a lot of damage.


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