Content of the material
- Expert QA
- EB After a Break-Up
- Did you receive a blackmail email from your own account?
- 4 Types Of Emotional Blackmail
- The Punisher
- The Self-punisher
- The Sufferer
- The Tantalizer
- The Bottom Line
- 6. Pay Attention To The Little Things
- How to STOP emotional blackmail
- 1. Change your mindset
- 2. Choose a healthy relationship
- 3. Set boundaries
- 4. Confront the blackmailer
- 5. Get psychological help for the manipulator
- 6. Love is without blackmail
- 7. Remove yourself or the manipulator in the equation
- What types of emotional blackmail are there?
- Where to Purchase Susan Forwards Book (+ eBook)
- What Are Your Legal Options if You Have Been Blackmailed?
- Who Can You Contact to Help You Deal With Blackmail?
- Reach Out to an Experienced Blackmail Attorney
- Contact Your Local Law Enforcement
- File a Complaint With the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center
- What is the Maximum Penalty For Blackmail or Extortion?
- What Are Possible Legal Defenses Against Extortion or Blackmail?
- Insufficient Evidence
- Lack of Intent
- Proof of Incapacity, Insanity, or Intoxication
- Statute of Limitations
- Ownership Over the Property
- Absence of Threat, Force, or Fear
- How to protect against online blackmail
EB After a Break-Up
A break-up or relationship separation can fuel the fire for emotional blackmailers. The potential for them to act out, even more, rises during crisis situations, especially involving a break-up. During this time, victims could be at risk or in danger, as blackmailers can escalate their behaviors. Since they are focused on what they want when they want it, they show limited concern or empathy for the pain of others.
They can become so absorbed in their own rage, that they could show signs of panic in their desperation.
If emotional blackmail was used during the relationship and there is a break-up, there is no longer a direct method for such manipulation tactics. This can cause an emotionally unstable person to act out even more if their means for control are taken away. Manipulator’s behaviors may increase in intensity and in a frequency. More severe threats of self-harm and inducing guilt would be common in a breakup situation.
They also may resort to stalking or other types of unwanted behaviors in pursuit in an attempt to reconnect the relationship. While uncommon, taken to an extreme, the ex may show obsessive tendencies and could be at risk for bringing the violence to another level.
It is important for the victim to remember that they are not responsible for their ex’s needs and feelings. It is important to seek protection if the victim is feeling unsafe. This may require getting professional help to understand how to establish these healthy boundaries. It may involve setting clear physical boundaries to ensure there is no contact with the ex-partner.
Finding a support system can be helpful for individuals who have been in relationships involving emotional blackmail and abuse. The focus post-break-up is best placed on victims learning how to engage in self-care and identify their own personal needs.
Did you receive a blackmail email from your own account?
Besides using the recipient’s password in the email, scammers also use the recipient’s own email address to make it seem that they’re the sender. They do this to hide their tracks but also to scare their recipients.
When you first open the email, you’ll see that your email address is in the sender box; this is not correct. This technique is called spoofing and makes it look like your own address sent the blackmail email to you, making you believe that the scammer has access to your email account. Modern email technology, unfortunately, makes this possible. If you are still unsure and scared, reach out to us, and we’re ready to help you check and keep you at ease.
A good tool against spoofing is setting up an SPF record. The SPF record lets other servers know which servers are authorized to send your emails. If an email arrived with your email address as the sender, but the server is not on the list, the email will be flagged as suspicious and, in many cases, completely denied.
However, keep in mind that this process is dependent on the receiving server checking the SPF. Not all servers check the SPF, and if that’s the case, the email will be delivered regardless.
Tip: If you have a website with a contact form where visitors can send you messages, it’s a good idea to make sure that the contact form is secured and cannot be abused.
4 Types Of Emotional Blackmail
Dr. Forward proposed four different types of emotional blackmail that people use within their relationships.
A person may adopt one or more of these roles in order to get you to do what they want.
This kind of blackmailer knows how to punish you, and doesn’t hesitate to make bold statements telling you what the consequences will be if you were to do (or not do) a particular thing.
The strategy they play on most is fear.
The punishment they inflict might be anything from withholding affection and ending the relationship, to restricting you from seeing other important people in your life, to financial penalties.
Emotional blackmail can also be based on the threat of physical punishment and abuse.
Some manipulative people may employ the tactic of punishing (or threatening to punish) themselves, knowing that it will make their partner suffer.
Their main weapon of attack is guilt (or the prospect of the guilt you would face if the manipulator followed through on their threats), but they also try to trigger fear (that someone you care for will come to harm).
Examples of this can include threatening to hurt or even kill themselves should you leave them or claiming that your behavior will make them depressed should you persist with it.
Sufferers hold their misery over their partner’s head as a way of getting them to do what they want.
They might claim that their illness or mental state is the fault of the other person, or tell their partner that if they don’t do what they want then they will suffer as a result.
They rely on a mixture of fear (that their well-being will suffer), obligation (they’re unwell so you must help them), and guilt (that you’d feel bad if they did suffer) to get their way.
They sometimes expect their partner to be able to figure out what’s wrong with them without having to be told… “if you really loved me, you’d know.”
Whereas all the other types of emotional blackmail are more ‘stick’ methods, this is the ‘carrot’ method.
This is promising some kind of reward, whether tangible or intangible. Although the reward will rarely ever materialize.
Fear (of missing out on the reward), obligation (they have asked nicely and are even offering a reward), and guilt (you’ll feel bad for saying no) will all probably be involved to some extent.
They ask you to do something in return for something else, but it’s usually not a fair trade.
Whilst some manipulators will only rely on one of the 3 strategies and fall into one of these 4 categories (the one they find most effective), some will switch between them, pushing all your buttons until they get their way.
The Bottom Line
No one deserves to be emotionally blackmailed. It is a horrible, mean way to manipulate another human being. So, if you find that you are a victim of emotional blackmail in your relationship, you need to realize that you deserve better.
Save yourself and your happiness, because that is all that really matters.
6. Pay Attention To The Little Things
Life is hard. And many people are going through life in quiet desperation with little or no support from family or friends. The problem is, people are so good at hiding it, that they give off the impression that everything is good in their life and they don’t need help. Keep in mind that people have lives outside of work, school, and other places you seed them. A simple awareness of others’ body language, behavior, and facial expressions will give you insight into how things are really going for them.
How to STOP emotional blackmail
1. Change your mindset
“Change is the scariest word in the English language. No one likes it, almost everyone is terrified of it, and most people, including me, will become exquisitely creative to avoid it. Our actions may be making us miserable, but the idea of doing anything differently is worse. Yet if there’s one thing I know with absolute certainty, both personally and professionally, it is this: Nothing will change in our lives until we change our own behavior.” – Susan Forward
You deserve respect. Period.
You need to change your mindset and approach the situation in a different way. Change is scary but it’s the only thing that will help you. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a ruined life.
2. Choose a healthy relationship
“Yet if there’s one thing I know with absolute certainty, both personally and professionally, it is this: Nothing will change in our lives until we change our own behavior. Insight won’t do it. Understanding why we do the self-defeating things we do won’t make us stop doing them. Nagging and pleading with the other person to change won’t do it. We have to act. We have to take the first step down a new road.” – Susan Forward
We all have choices about how to engage in a relationship: As a human being, you have the right to negotiate for a healthier relationship or end the relationship.
Remember that no relationship is worth your emotional and mental health. If it is becoming too toxic, you always have the choice to do what’s good for you.
3. Set boundaries
Sharie Stines, a California-based therapist who specializes in abuse and toxic relationships said:
“People who manipulate have lousy boundaries. You have your own volitional experience as a human being and you need to know where you end and the other person begins. Manipulators often have either boundaries that are too rigid or enmeshed boundaries.”
When you set boundaries, it tells the manipulator that you’re done being manipulated. It may be scary at first but when you successfully break this toxic behavior pattern, it means you have started to love yourself.
So, learn to say “no” and “stop” when needed.
4. Confront the blackmailer
You cannot set the boundaries unless you try and confront the manipulator. If you want to save the relationship, you can try these examples:
- You are pushing our relationship to the edge and I feel uncomfortable.
- You are not taking me seriously when I tell you how unhappy I am with your actions.
- We need to find ways to deal with conflicts that do not leave me feeling emotionally abused and worthless.
- I always comply with your demands and I feel depleted. I am not willing to live like that anymore.
- I need to be treated with respect because I deserve it.
- Let’s talk about it, don’t threaten and punish me.
- I’m not going to tolerate those manipulative behaviors anymore.
5. Get psychological help for the manipulator
Rarely, emotional blackmailers own up to their mistakes. If you want to save the relationship, you can request that he or she get psychological help where positive negotiation and communication skills will be taught.
If they are truly taking responsibility for their actions, they will be open to creating a safer environment in the relationship and that is through eliminating emotional blackmails. Manipulators who take accountability show hope for learning and change.
6. Love is without blackmail
“Some people earn love. Some people blackmail others into it.” – Rebekah Crane, The Upside of Falling Down
Know that true love has no blackmail attached to it. When a person truly loves you, there is no threat involved.
See the situation as it is. Safety is the primary element of defining a healthy or not healthy relationship. When you’re being threatened, it’s no longer safe for you.
7. Remove yourself or the manipulator in the equation
Oftentimes, you cannot make a manipulator take responsibility for his actions. However, you can control yourself and act on it.
When you remove yourself from the situation (break up or move away), you will no longer be subject to threats, thus stopping the cycle. Dr. Christina Charbonneau said:
“We all have choices, and you can choose to help yourself. Stop the vicious cycle of allowing yourself to be emotionally blackmailed by others by questioning what others are saying to you before you simply take it as fact and believe it.”
What types of emotional blackmail are there?
Forward and Frazier identified four different types of emotional blackmailers. These are:
Punishers will threaten to directly hurt the person they’re blackmailing. They might stop you from seeing your friends, or withdraw affection, or even physically hurt you if you don’t do what they say.
Self-punishers will threaten to hurt themselves as a form of blackmail, and will tell you that it will be your fault if they do.
Sufferers will blame you for their emotional state. They’ll expect you to comply with their wishes to make them feel better. They might say “Go out with your friends if you want, but I’ll spend the whole evening feeling sad and lonely if you do.”
Tantalizers won’t make direct threats, but will dangle the promise of something better if you do what they ask. So they might say “I’ll book us a holiday if you stay home with me this weekend”.
Where to Purchase Susan Forwards Book (+ eBook)
As you would have noticed by reading this far, Susan’s book is referenced throughout this article. Below are links on where to purchase a copy.
What Are Your Legal Options if You Have Been Blackmailed?
When you are blackmailed, you have both legal options for dealing with the threat and other non-legal resources.
Who Can You Contact to Help You Deal With Blackmail?
Many victims of blackmail feel embarrassed about their situation and fear talking to anyone else about the threats. Remember: you do not have to suffer alone. You should confide in someone you trust and seek the help of professionals who can put a stop to the threats.
Blackmailers rely on your fear to pressure you into doing things. Confiding in others can be an empowering process – especially when law enforcement and authorities can charge the perpetrator with a crime.
Reach Out to an Experienced Blackmail Attorney
Contact an experienced internet attorney to determine the best strategy for confronting your blackmailer. Since blackmail can be both a criminal and civil offense, you have several legal options at your disposal. An attorney can help you figure out which options are in your best interest, given your situation.
They can also serve as a confidant and trusted source of advice as you deal with the stress of blackmail. An attorney can also help you remove any explicit content that has been published without your consent.
For instance, Google has a streamlined process for reporting and removing intimate images. If the blackmailer posts explicit content to a revenge porn website, you can usually get that removed as well.
For more information about removing content from revenge porn websites, check out our detailed blog post ‘How to Permanently Remove Content From Revenge Porn Websites’.
Contact Your Local Law Enforcement
Once you preserve and gather as much relevant evidence as possible, you should report the crime to your local police. Law enforcement officers are trained and able to investigate crimes and may even be able to find more information than you were able to obtain on your own.
For instance, if you are dealing with an anonymous blackmailer, police may be able to help you uncover their identity. Local police, in conjunction with your district attorney’s office, are the only authorities that can charge the perpetrator with a crime, so you should involve them as soon as possible.
If for whatever reason, your local police are unwilling or unable to help with your situation, you should contact an experienced internet attorney. An internet attorney might help you gather the information needed to get the local police involved or they can file a civil claim on your behalf.
While a civil case, alone, will not result in jail time for a perpetrator, it could lead to the removal of negative online content. You may also be able to recover monetary damages for the harm caused by the blackmailer.
File a Complaint With the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center
The FBI has an Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) that tracks suspected criminal activity that occurs online. The IC3 is a great option for victims to report any form of online fraud, not just blackmail and extortion.
Once the IC3 receives a complaint, they review the information and forward it to appropriate local, state, and federal authorities. In some circumstances, they will also forward information to international law enforcement bodies.
What is the Maximum Penalty For Blackmail or Extortion?
Each state and the federal government punish blackmail differently. In most cases, blackmail and extortion are felonies and carry a penalty including imprisonment. Some states differentiate between degrees of extortion – with blackmail involving bodily harm punished severely.
Here are some examples of how different states punish blackmailers:
- Ohio – Extortion is a third-degree felony punishable by 1 to 5 years in prison and/or a fine up to $10,000.
- New York – Larceny by extortion sentences depend on the value of the property involved and whether violence has occurred. At a minimum, blackmail is a class “E” felony with a potential sentence of up to 4 years.
- Texas – Extortion falls under theft and penalties vary based on the value of the property stolen among several other factors. At a minimum, a conviction can lead to prison time, fines, or both.
What Are Possible Legal Defenses Against Extortion or Blackmail?
There are several ways that someone accused of blackmail may try to defend themselves. The most common defenses raised in extortion or blackmail cases are:
It is imperative to preserve all communications with the blackmailer so they will not succeed on an insufficient evidence claim.
Also, extortionists may try to argue that evidence was obtained illegally, like an illegal seizure, interrogation, or coercion.
Lack of Intent
Both blackmail and extortion must be intentional, meaning the perpetrator must knowingly threaten and induce fear in exchange for something of value.
Proof of Incapacity, Insanity, or Intoxication
This defense is similar to a lack of intent, where a defendant claims that they did not fully know what they were doing because of a developmental or mental disability, or intoxication.
Statute of Limitations
Every jurisdiction has a different statute of limitations for blackmail, which is a limit on how long you can wait to file a lawsuit or press charges.
Ownership Over the Property
If a defendant proves that they were merely asking for the return of property that was lawfully theirs in the first place, they will likely overcome an allegation of blackmail.
Absence of Threat, Force, or Fear
A defendant may try to claim that they never threatened the victim, coerced them, or intended to induce fear to defend against blackmail charges.
How to protect against online blackmail
Most online blackmail attacks start out with hacking, either of one of your online accounts or your computer or smartphone. There are a number of privacy protection steps you can take to make it less likely that you will be hacked. That, in turn, makes it less likely that someone will be able to gain access to your systems and blackmail you.
Start with these tips:
- Use strong passwords: Too often, people use easy-to-hack passwords like their initials and birthdate, or “password123.” Make sure you choose hard-to-guess passwords. Ideally, use randomly generated strings of numbers, letters, and symbols. You can use a password manager tool to avoid having to remember all these difficult passwords.
- Lock down social media accounts: Blackmailers will turn to social media to look for information that could be used to hack you. Make sure that the public profiles of all your social media accounts are locked down and do not reveal any information about you, your professional life, or your family.
- Remove sources of personal information: There are dozens of online data brokers that collect your information from across the Internet and sell it to anyone who asks. Remove yourself from as many of these services as possible.
- Learn how to spot phishing emails: Phishing is the act of using tantalizing information to get someone to click on a link that installs a virus. Often, phishing emails are disguised as security alerts or other urgent messages. Generally speaking, if you receive an email with a link in it, never click unless you’re absolutely certain that the email is legitimate.
Although there are no absolute guarantees against online blackmail, if you follow these steps, you will be much less likely to fall victim to these nefarious plots. That said, if you do find yourself embroiled in a blackmail scam, contact law enforcement immediately.