Fighting back against blackmail

Fighting back against blackmail

A blackmail victim beats her abuser at his game.

PETALING JAYA - Most blackmail victims are intimidated into succumbing to their extortioner's demands, but Susan (not her real name) did not take things lying down.

"My ex-boyfriend and I had a very rocky relationship. Four years ago, he suggested a romantic island getaway as a way to kiss and make-up," said the 30-year-old in an interview with The Star Online.

They had an enjoyable time, but unbeknownst to Susan, he secretly recorded her in the nude during that holiday.

"When it finally ended for good, I started dating a colleague of his after a few months. That was when the nightmare began," she said.

Her newfound happiness triggered her ex's jealousy, and the initial verbal abuse soon turned into threats of blackmail in an effort to bring Susan's fledgling relationship to an end.

"He sent e-mails threatening to release a recording of me taken while I was taking a bath, and demanded that I satisfy his sexual desires," she said.

Despite feeling lost and alone, Susan did not seek any help as she did not want the news to go to the police or her family and friends.

"I was terrified and disgusted, and felt so stupid for trusting and dating him," she said.

In a brave and unusual move, she decided to turn the tables on him by threatening to go public with information on his identity if he continued to blackmail her.

"I told him that if he released the clip, I would go to his parents with proof of his misdeeds, call in lawyers, and let them all know what he was doing to me. If I went down, I would drag him along with me," she said.

Thankfully, her aggressor backed off, and Susan has since steadily ignored his advances.

Still, the experience has left some scars, and until today, she does not respond to calls from unknown numbers in the fear that it will be a familiar and unwelcome voice on the line.

"I know stories of many young girls getting tricked by their lovers and losing quite a bit of themselves. Do not provide any form of data or participate in any form of activity that can be used against you unexpectedly," she said of her experience.

And according to Malaysian Psychiatric Association president Dr Abdul Kadir Abu Bakar, Susan's tale - where victims undergo a crippling fear of the unknown and anxiety - is a common one.

"Blackmail is a form of emotional abuse. There is no difference between the psyche of an emotional abuser and a blackmailer," he said.

To him, both perpetrators seek to exert power and control over their victims, albeit in different contexts.

Asked if many victims seek psychiatric help to deal with the mental trauma, he said that most try to solve it by themselves or resort to other methods.

Though victims often feel helpless, he terms it a perceived lack of control: "If the information has been disclosed to people important to you, it is no big deal. As long as it means something, it's a weapon."

"For example, if you know something about my past and threaten me with it for money, I can tell you to go ahead if the information has no value. When everyone knows it, the issue is made redundant," he added.

He advised those affected to "reassert control over your own life" and report the incident to the police as it is a criminal matter.

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