“I connected with this guy on 2go [the chat program for mobile phones]. He was in Ogun State. We became friends in no time, as he seemed really nice. We stayed in contact with each other for two months, calling and chatting, until I decided to visit him, unknowing to me that I was embarking on a journey I wouldn’t forget in a hurry. When I got to his place in Ogun State, I met some other boys there. They were all five in number. They waited for me to settle in and then they all brought out their knives. I was dead scared. They called me all sorts of names. They threatened to call my family. I was forced to cooperate as they robbed me; they took the N3,000 [about US $8] on me and my school bag. My Blackberry Bold 5 [smartphone] was also taken away from me.” excerpt from 76crimes
“If you leave me, I’ll post the pics online”
Blackmail is a form of abuse where the victim is issued with threats and can be extorted by their assailant or abuser. The victim will give out money, valuables in order to avoid shame and ridicule. Because of this, many people keep their sexual orientation a secret for their safety online and offline. Most countries in Africa deem homosexuality illegal by law and often, their citizens take matters in their own hands. They corner, intimidate, rob and castigate members of the LGBTIQ community.
However, blackmail can also occur in intimate relationships where one’s partner uses their power and control to instill fear in you to get what they want. The abuser can use facts, sensitive information or lies to paint their partner in bad light (to other people) for their own gain. The threats include physical harm or being reported to the authorities. While it would be easy to say, don’t get blackmailed. It is hardly that simple. Anyone can be a victim.
If you do find yourself in this situation, remember the following;
Report. It would be important to inform legal support groups and/or relevant authorities. You can do this by reporting via the Utunzi app or website. These groups are in a better position to attend to this matter since they are experienced and connected.
Block, Block, Block. All abusers will need to be blocked on email, contact lists and social media.
Security. Use passwords, codes and sign up for any system that allows you to know when there’s an intrusion. Most banks and financial institutions have this facility.
Collect evidence/proof. If you have calls, texts, whatsapp messages, DMs or any form of evidence; don’t delete. Keep it. One victim of blackmail signed up for google alerts to see what was being said about her online so that she could know what to use in her police report and protect her image.
Go underground. Dip and let the storm pass. Though, do let loved ones know before you do and the reason behind your low profile. They need to know what’s happening as they might be called and pulled into the extortion cycle.
Leak that info. In some instances, you’d be better off to leak the information yourself and become the primary source. This lessens the power the abuser has over you. Use all channels you have to inform everyone of the blackmail before it becomes news.
Die another day. When attacked, just comply with your attackers and give them what they want. You can replace material possessions. Your life is more important. Quick thinking and other robbery hacks can save your life. It is good to arm yourself with knowledge on how to survive a physical attack and information on crime hot spots within your area.