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B.C. boy dies by suicide after online sextortion: RCMP

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Warning: This story is about a child who died by suicide and may be disturbing to readers. A list of resources for anyone in crisis is included at the bottom of the article. 

Mounties in northern British Columbia are investigating after a 12-year-old boy died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound following an apparent case of online sextortion.

Prince George RCMP officers attended a home where the boy was found suffering a gunshot wound on Oct. 12, the detachment said in a news release Monday.

"The investigation revealed that the youth took his own life in response to online sextortion," police said.

Investigators are still working to identify a suspect in the case.

In the meantime, officials are urging parents and caregivers to speak with their children about the dangers of chatting online with people they do not know.

"While not every case of online sextortion will end in tragedy, the consequences of this kind of activity can follow a youth for their entire life, which needs to be something we talk about openly with our kids," Prince George RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Jennifer Cooper said.

Reports of sextortion, in which someone extorts money or sexual favours from someone by threatening to reveal personal photos or evidence of their sexual activity, are on the rise across the province, according to police.

B.C. attorney general Niki Sharma expressed her condolences to the boy's family Monday, telling reporters that parents need to be aware of the growing problem of sextortion.

"I'm also angry that there are people out there that are preying on our young people in this province and across the world," Sharma said at the B.C. legislature. "I want to send a message to the kids that may be suffering in silence: You are not alone. Please go to a trusted adult, talk to somebody about it, seek help."

Earlier this year, the attorney general sent a letter to internet and social media companies warning they could face orders to stop the distribution of personal images of B.C. residents under the province's new Intimate Images Protection Act.

"We're seeing a lot of young people being subject to the type of sextortion that we've heard in so many tragic cases," Sharma added. "We're stepping up as a province and governments around the world need to do the same to keep children safe."

The Prince George RCMP detachment says the activity is most prevalent with youths between 13 and 18 years old. So far this year, the Prince George RCMP has received 62 reports of online sextortion, surpassing the 56 reports received in 2022.

Investigators say anyone who believes they are a victim of sextortion should immediately stop all communication with the perpetrator and not give in to their demands. Victims are advised to deactivate any online accounts used to communicate with the person and report the activity to caregivers or police.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, here are some resources that are available:

Canada Suicide Prevention Helpline (1-833-456-4566)

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (1-800-463-2338)

Crisis Services Canada (1-833-456-4566 or text 45645)

Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868)

If you need immediate assistance call 911 or go to the nearest hospital.

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