I had a friend in secondary school who one day sent a message to all her close friends that she was ill and on the sickbed. We all raced to her bedside only to discover that she was hale and hearty and just wanted to know who her true friends were. Those of us that heeded her call were very happy to have passed the friendship test but we were not so delighted when she repeated the same request some weeks after and became quite irritated when she did the same thing the next term.
When she noticed that we had not only gotten used to her false cries of “Wolf” but also began to reevaluate our friendship with her, she changed tactics and began to use things she knew about her friends to make them do the things she wanted. It took years for me to realise that the name for what she had done was blackmail.
Blackmail is defined by Wikipedia as “an act of coercion using the threat of revealing or publicizing either substantially true or false information about a person or people unless certain demands are met. It is often damaging information and it may be revealed to family members or associates as well as the general public. These acts can also involve using threats of physical, mental or emotional harm or of criminal prosecution against the victim or someone close to the victim. It is normally carried out for personal gain , most commonly of position, money or property”.
Blackmailers fall into three general categories
- A scorned/ jilted or narcissistic lover who uses pictures , videos or information obtained whilst the relationship was good to revenge or get back at their erstwhile lover. I know of spouses that have sponsored both true and fake stories in the media just to paint their estranged partner in a bad light before the court of law in a bid to get a favorable judgment.
- A person who happens upon sensitive and unpleasant information about someone and uses it mainly for financial gain. e.g a phone repairer who happens upon files of nudes of the phone owner.
- Family members who use the emotions of duty, obligation, sarcasm, history and guilt to manipulate their supposed loved ones.
There are several kinds of blackmail e.g emotional, financial, psychological etc and it can take several forms – express and implied, the unique feature being that a person is manipulated to take or not to take certain actions against their wish, will and comfort. Emotional blackmail is the most difficult to define because it is usually carried out by one’s loved ones and starts early in the victim’s life. It is usually expressed subtly and includes emotions, expressions and even body language and most times it’s not to reveal information about the victim but to get them to act in certain ways.
Psychologists have stated that there are about six stages of blackmail.
- A demand to do or not to do something which is in the power of the victim to do.
- Resistance from the victim
- Pressure from the blackmailer
- Threats which may be direct or indirect
Blackmailers have a wide range of equipment in their armory that they use, especially when the blackmail is emotional. They can use silence and separation to frustrate a spouse or taunt them about going to family, friends and the public with the information they have against them, endure self inflicted suffering to make the victim feel guilty- this works well in cases of aged parents and their adult children.
How to save yourself from being blackmailed.
- Ensure your gadgets are well protected and secured- use strong passwords, be security conscious about the people that have access to and handle your gadgets.
- Have no skeletons or minimize them.
- Desist from sending or storing nudes and sex scenes and if you must do so blur your features.
- Create boundaries and refuse to cower to unreasonable demands contrary to your will no matter how much you love the person making the demand.
What to do if you find yourself being blackmailed-
- Refuse to comply with the blackmailer’s wishes and call their bluff. There is the risk that the blackmailer will release whatever they have on you but it’s a risk you should take because once you heed to their demands you will continue to do so and the demands will become more stringent until things come to a head.
- Release the information by yourself and on your own terms effectively taking the wind out of the blackmailer’s sails. Thankfully in today’s world, people are very fickle and live from story to story, so be assured that after some days they will forget and move on to the next new sensational story. The very recent story of the release of the nudes of the @verydarkman by @gistlover an instagram blogger has turned the narrative successfully against the blogger as the victim had spoken about them in public and released a few of his nudes himself.
- Stop all contact with the blackmailer on your phone and all social media handles.
- Save all evidence you can collect on the blackmailer and file a formal report to the authorities for prosecution by the police.
- Do not succumb to fear or hopelessness even if the blackmailer is an accomplished student and is most times steps ahead in his game.
Those who have taken up the despicable job of an extortionist and blackmailer do know that it is a crime punishable by imprisonment and that it is one of the most despicable acts of earning a living. To the increasing victims of blackmail, you are not alone and your silence is the advantage the blackmailer relies on to fleece you. Refuse to cower and remember there is no shame for the shameless.