Kaushik Gupta answers a reader query on dealing with sexual and financial blackmail experienced before someone turns adult

Reader queries

Can anything be done if suppose someone who is 20 years old now was blackmailed for sex and money three to four years ago? Suppose at that time someone who befriended the victim was able to take a nude photo of his and then started blackmailing him with messages threatening to show the photo to his parents. Can the victim report the matter now to the local police? Will they at all help him if he doesn’t have any proof against the blackmailer?
Anonymous, Assam

Dear Anonymous

First, it is important that we don’t be scared. A blackmailer always encashes on our fear. If we can overcome our fear and confront them, then the blackmailer will, in most cases, beat a retreat.

If an incident such as the one described happened three to four years ago and the victim is now 20, then at the time of the incident he would have been a child in the eyes of the law. Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act), which came into force on June 19, 2012, any person who makes a child exhibit his (‘his’ includes persons of all genders and sexes) body or any part of his body or threatens to use, in any form of media, a real or fabricated depiction through electronic, film or digital or any other mode, of any part of the body of the child or the involvement of the child in a sexual act then such person will be committing the offence of ‘sexual harassment’ as defined under Section 11 of POCSO Act.

The said person can be imprisoned for up to three years and shall also be liable to fine under Section 12 of the said Act. It is important to remember that under the said Act even an attempt to commit an offence is also punishable with the same punishment that the actual offence will attract.

The victim in this case should report the matter to the local police, if needed with the help of a local NGO, or by calling the Childline toll free number at 1098. If the messages from the blackmailer have been in any material form and saved by the victim, then they may also prove useful in catching and punishing the blackmailer.

Main photo credit: Kaushik Gupta (also published in the October 2013 issue of Varta).