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5 (Powerful) Ways On How to Prove Someone is Blackmailing You

Blackmailing vs. Extortion

Blackmailing is making demands in return of not reThese two terms are sometimes mistakenly used interchangeably. Even though there is a strong correlation between them, they are different.

Blackmailing is making demands in return of not revealing something embarrassing and damning about the victim. These demands can be anything: Money, services, illegal activities, or personal favors. The information or material, which the blackmailer threatens the victim with can be private or intimate, exposing or embarrassing material (pictures, videos, conversations), and evidence that might incriminate the victim. The blackmailing leverage may not directly belong to the victim themselves, but to their friends or family.

Extortion is receiving money, valuables, or favors through coercion or force. It’s also called a shake-down. In blackmail, victims aren’t hustled out of their money because the extorter had something on them. Instead, the person extorting may use force, the threat of harm or general bullying to take something from the victim. The most common form of extortion is corrupt officers of the law and criminal entities collecting regular payments from small business owners (shopkeepers and food stall owners).

We might define extortion and blackmail as one act, in which it extorts victims out of their money through extortion. But blackmail and extortion are two different criminal acts.

Definition, Penalty, and Types of Blackmail

The law varies from state to state about blackmailLegally, blackmail can be defined as revealing or not revealing sensitive information about the victim for a payment. Most commonly, the amount is money. But a lot of times, cash can also do something damaging or embarrassing for the blackmailer.

The law varies from state to state about blackmailing. Some states lump it with extortion; some treat it as a separate crime. Some countries consider psychological trauma as a factor when deciding the punishment for blackmail, while some only pen out penalties based on what the victim paid to the blackmailer. The sentence for extortion is fine, imprisonment, or both, depending upon the severity of the crime.

Legally blackmail has not been correctly classified. But there are many scenarios through which we can differentiate blackmailing. For example, the blackmailer may only have information about the victim that, if revealed, could damage the victim. Or they might have actual material or physical evidence that can harm the victim.

Similarly, the blackmailing could be a onetime thing. The victim paid the blackmailer, and they destroyed whatever they had on the victim. Or it could be something continual, like blackmailer asking favors from the victim now and then. Because they know the victim will have no choice but to obey.

Different scenarios might have various repercussions for the blackmailer if they got caught. Similarly, as a victim, you might have to opt for a different strategy to prove that someone is blackmailing you.

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Advice for Parents

Emotional blackmail can also be used in families, even with children or teens blackmailing their parents. However, it would be easy to assume that all temper tantrums by children sound like emotional blackmail.

In his article Emotional Blackmail: Fear, Obligation, and Guilt (FOG), Skip Johnson differentiates the difference between immature actions taken by children to manipulate their parents and emotional blackmail. He highlights how the use of the term “blackmail” brings such a negative connotation. He clarifies that in using such a term, it is implied that there is forethought or premeditation involved.

A child having a crying fit at the grocery store because they want candy is clearly a different dynamic than emotional blackmail used in an adult relationship. Children may naively demonstrate such behaviors, without the understanding of the manipulation element. That being said, a teenager making a demand for parents to give them the car or they will hurt themselves does qualify as emotional blackmail.

All parents are invested in wanting their kids to be happy. This potentially makes them more vulnerable to being emotionally blackmailed by their children and adolescents. Mental health experts claim that this type of manipulation tactics can be very difficult to identify and address. If they give in to such manipulation tactics, parents can often end up feeling hijacked by their own family.

Kids and teens can exploit your wish of wanting them to be happy in order to get what they want. This hijack can be addressed if parents are clear and understanding that the primary role is not to make sure their kids are happy, but to keep them safe and teach them about the world.

Parents that are dealing with a child who engages in emotional blackmail can feel as though they are being held hostage. Addressing these behaviors as a parent is complicated and challenging. There is a range of severity in terms of the level of emotional blackmail kids can use with their parents. A common example may be a tantrum in the grocery store, where the parent, in an effort to avoid a scene and to escape the store will give in.

Once parents give in to this behavior, the cycle becomes reinforced. The child then learns what buttons to push in order to get what they want. They now know what to do in order to get the parent to give in. As kids get older, the behavior may shift into disrespectful attitudes and remarks as a teenager to try and control the parents.

Adolescents can learn techniques to manipulate their parents by expressing strong emotions. In his book Declare Yourself, John Narciso identifies these behavior patterns as “get my way techniques.” Adolescents, like adults, can identify triggers for their parents and use this knowledge to get what they want. An example of a button to push, is if the parent is sensitive to rejection.

Teenagers can pick up on that and act in ways that spark fear in the parent that the teen does not like them. This can create guilt and fear in the parent, who then ends up complying to the adolescents’ demands.

Another example is if a parent is sensitive to inadequacy, the adolescent can criticize the parent by attacking their competence. A parent sensitive to this may give in because of the discomfort they experience feeling judged. If parents are sensitive to guilt, teens can highlight their emotional suffering to get what they want.

To re-direct emotional blackmail, parents need to stand firm and consistent with their boundaries, regardless of the emotional outbursts or threats from the teen. It is important to clarify that acting upset or aggressively will not change the parents’ mind. The key is to not be sensitive to these behaviors to the point that it changes your parental decisions.

Some families, especially those dealing with mental illness in the family, will experience more severe forms of emotional blackmail. It creates a conundrum, because for children who engage in extreme emotional blackmail, common forms of influence, discipline, punishment, or reinforcements are not effective in changing the behaviors. A severe form of manipulation may involve children threatening their parents that if they do not get what they want, they will tell people that they are being abused.

Here are some additional examples of children blackmailing parents. They can blame their parents for behaviors such as stealing, suggesting that it was not their fault that they had to take the money. The may say that if the parents gave them a bigger allowance, they would not have needed to steal the money for what they wanted at the time.

Another example is that they make threats to physically harm another sibling if the parents do not let them go out or do what they want. They may threaten to run away if they do not get their way. Making a threat to harm themselves is another severe example of emotional blackmail. In these situations, parents need psychological support and guidance on how to best navigate in a way that will keep everyone safe.

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.

What are the types of emotional blackmail roles?

According to Sharie Stines:

“Manipulation is an emotionally unhealthy psychological strategy used by people who are incapable of asking for what they want and need in a direct way. People who are trying to manipulate others are trying to control others.”

For emotional blackmail to occur, the manipulator needs to make a demand followed by a threat if the victim refuses to comply.

And if you don’t know it yet, manipulators adopt one or more roles using one or more of the strategies discussed above to emotionally blackmail you. Here are the four types of roles used to get you to do what they want:

1. Punisher role

This role uses the fear strategy where they threaten to punish you if demands are not met. They tell you what the consequences are if you will not do a particular thing.

The punishments include but is not limited to withholding affection, ending the relationship, restricting you from seeing friends and family, financial penalties, and physical punishment.

2. Self-punisher role

Self-punishers threaten to harm themselves just to get what they want. It’s a way to trigger fear and guilt so that you’ll be compelled to do what is being asked.

My personal experience involved my then boyfriend cutting himself with a blade in front of me to get what he wanted. However, it can also be someone close to you threatening to take their own life or harm themselves if you do not do what they ask you to do.

3. Sufferer role

Sufferers use fear, obligation, and guilt tactics to manipulate people. They use and hold their misery over their partner’s head to get what they want.

For example, they will claim that the state they’re in, whether physical, mental, or emotional, is the fault of the other person. Other manipulations include telling you that they will suffer if you refuse to do what they want you to do.

4. Tantalizer role

Tantalizers promise a reward, which will never materialize. It’s like leading you on and asking you to do something in return for something else, but it’s usually not a fair trade.

An example is when your partner, friend or family member makes lavish promises that are contingent on your behavior and then rarely keep them.

Types of emotional blackmail

An individual can adopt either of the following tactics or a combination of them to emotionally blackmail their partner:

1. The punisher

As the name suggests in this kind of emotional blackmail an individual implores different forms of punishment or threats of punishment as a way to get what they want.

Withholding affection, threats of ending the relationship, putting restrictions on their partner, anger, silent treatment, and even physical punishments and abuse.

2. The self punisher

Here the manipulation happens by using guilt or the suggestion of possible guilt to instill fear.

Threats of self harm, blaming their partner for their problems and difficulties are some common threats used to trigger gear in others.

3. The sufferer

A sufferer holds their hopelessness over their partners’ heads as a method of getting them to do what they need.

They blame that their problems are a result of their partner’s actions and threaten them that if they don’t do what they need it would only add to the suffering.

They depend on a combination of fear, obligation, and guilt to get what they want.

4. The tantalizer

A tantalizer uses compensations or rewards as a way to get something from you, but each time you pass one obstacle, there’s another waiting and you just can’t keep up.

Promising some sort of remuneration, especially something that you need to or desire, however their promises rarely ever materialize

9 Quotes on the Topic

“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

“Emotional blackmail is a powerful form of manipulation. It leaves you in a FOG when there is haze of Fear, Obligation, and Guilt. Often the emotional blackmailer is not a deliberate tactic on the others’ part – it’s just the method that gets them what they want! And have found that it works!”

Counselor and psychotherapist Carey West

“The emotional blackmailer may go out of their way to do things for you, even if it goes against their self-interest…they’ll bring it up over-and-over again, frequently reminding you what they’ve sacrificed to make you happy.”

Relationship expert Amica Graber

“Emotional blackmail is a powerful form of manipulation in which people close to us threaten to punish us for not doing what they want. Emotional blackmailers know how much we value our relationships with them. They know our vulnerabilities and our deepest secrets. They can be our parents or partners, bosses or coworkers, friends or lovers. And no matter how much they care about us, they use this intimate knowledge to win the pay-off they want: our compliance.”

Susan Forward

“In order for a blackmailer to be successful, they must know what the target fears. This fear is often deep-rooted such as fear of abandonment, loneliness, humiliation, and failure.”

Licensed Mental Health Counselor Christine Hammond

“If after an argument, your partner goes out for hours without telling you where they are, this indicates that they are punishing you for the disagreement by intentionally causing you to worry or feel anxious”

Relationship expert, Kryss Shane, MS, MSW, LSW, LMSW

“Emotional blackmail is the use of fear, obligation, and guilt to control another person.”

Susan Forward

“Emotional blackmail is one of the primary ways that one partner controls another partner. It’s done in such a way that the controlling partner manipulates the other person‘s emotions in an attempt to get their way.”

Dr. Connie Omari, clinician and owner of Tech Talk Therapy

“It should be taken very seriously and you should immediately tell the person how you feel if that is safe to do and/or to get others involved if you feel a sense of danger.”

Kelsey M. Latimer, Ph.D., founder of Hello Goodlife

“Although they may do this in ways which seem harmless, it’s a common tactic to trigger fear and doubt.”

Samantha Morrison, wellness expert

Manipulative Tactics Used by an Emotional Blackmailer

Here are some of the ways that a partner uses manipulation to assert their demands in an emotionally abusive relationship:

  • Making a partner feel “crazy” for not accepting their demands or beliefs.
  • Controlling the behavior of their partner.
  • Ignoring resistance or boundaries of others.
  • Blaming their partner and not taking responsibility for their part in the relational conflict.
  • Apologizing in order to temper the conflict but engaging in continued controlling behavior once the discord has ended.
  • Using fear, obligation, threats, and guilt.
  • Being unwilling to negotiate or compromise.
  • Does not identify care or concern about their partner’s wants or needs.
  • Threatening and intimidating using vulnerable and personal knowledge or information to coerce a partner to comply.
  • Making a partner feel obligated to “earn” back affection or intimacy in a relationship by complying with what they need or want.
  • Accusations and skepticism about a partner’s dedication or devotion to the abusive partner (jealousy).
  • Threats to harm themselves, their partner, or someone or something close to the partner.

Why some people are more likely to be emotional blackmail victims than others

No-one is ever to blame for being the victim of emotional blackmail. The responsibility is entirely with the blackmailer. 

That said, there are some personality traits that can make it more likely that a blackmailer (or any emotional abuser) will target you. They look for people who are more likely to respond to their abuse. That can mean:

  • People with low-self-esteem, who are less likely to feel that they deserve a healthy relationship. 
  • People who have a heightened fear of upsetting others, so that they’re more likely to give in to the blackmail.
  • People who have a strong sense of duty or obligation, so that they’re more likely to feel that they should go along with what the emotional blackmailer wants.
  • People who tend to take responsibility or others’ feelings easily and who tend to feel guilty for things that they didn’t cause. 

Not every emotional blackmail victim will display these all or any of these traits initially. Most will begin to over time as a result of the emotional blackmail.

Someone who is capable of upsetting others when they need to in a work or family situation,  for example, might find it very difficult to do the same when they’re in an abusive relationship with an emotional blackmailer.

Being subject to long-term emotional blackmail and abuse can change your personality.

What does your site do for my search of How To Blackmail People​?

That when users search for How To Blackmail People​ means they need help. Then, we will support them by giving advice and tips by articles. There may be one or various solutions, so the best one is up to the choice and demand of each.

11. Be Polite

It’s easy to connect better with someone with manners. The simple things your parents taught you when you were a child, a little “Please”, “Thank-you”; and “You’re Welcome”, can go a long way.

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3 Strategies Of Emotional Blackmail

Psychotherapist Dr. Susan Forward devised the acronym FOG to sum up the strategies that manipulators typically use – Fear, Obligation, and Guilt.

A manipulator can use all of these three kinds of strategies at once, or rely on just one or two of them.

A person can tap into their partner’s fears (perhaps about the relationship ending), trigger their feelings of obligation (perhaps reminding them that they’re the breadwinner in the family), or make them feel guilty (by laying their problems entirely at their partner’s door).

They do this using the knowledge they’ve gained over the years about what makes their partner tick.

Being aware of these strategies and the four types of emotional blackmail discussed later can help you to identify behavior you might not have otherwise recognized as manipulative.

Let’s take a closer look at the three strategies, and then examine the four types of blackmail and see how the two interlink.

Fear

Fear is a reaction designed to protect us, triggering physical responses that get us ready for ‘fight or flight’ when we find ourselves in threatening situations.

Those situations don’t necessarily have to be physically dangerous.

We can feel fearful about losing the ones we love or harm coming to them.

Sometimes, it’s just fear of the unknown that manipulators play on.

There are all kinds of fears that can be used to hold people hostage, such as fear of abandonment, fear of upsetting someone, fear of confrontation, fear of tricky situations, and fear for your own physical safety.

Obligation

We often feel obliged to the people around us because, as human beings, a strong sense of community is a large part of what has enabled our species to be so successful.

There’s safety in numbers, and we all want to be included in the group. In order to be accepted, we’ve always had certain obligations to fulfil.

Manipulators can use different strategies to remind us of those obligations, pushing the buttons that make us feel duty bound to do what they want.

A parent might remind a child of the sacrifices they’ve made for them and tell them they’re being ungrateful.

A partner might claim that they would do whatever it is they have asked you to do if the roles were reversed.

A manipulator might accuse a friend of being selfish.

Guilt

Guilt is very much linked to obligation.

If we don’t do something we think we’re obliged to do, we tend to experience guilt, or feel like we deserve to be punished in some way.

It’s pretty easy to trigger guilt in someone, for all kinds of reasons.

We can be made to feel guilty for something we’ve done to upset someone, for our selfishness, or for not doing our share of the work in a relationship.

We can be guilt-tripped for working too much, for spending too much, for spending time with other people, or even just being happy or enjoying ourselves when the other person is low or going through a hard time.

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:

Insufficient Evidence

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.

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