This week, Joseph Ostrowski, the former head football coach at Holy Redeemer High School in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, pled guilty to producing child pornography. The U.S. Attorney charged with prosecuting the case said that Ostrowski engaged in “sextortion” of his victims by tricking them into sexual acts that he viewed over video chat. Ostrowski then shared the sexual conduct and pictures via Facebook.
“Sextortion” is loosely defined as “a form of sexual exploitation that employs non-physical forms of coercion to extort sexual favors from the victim.” Like extortion, sextortion is the abuse of power through coercion, but seeks sexual acts from the victim in exchange for some sort of favor. Sextortion is not itself a crime but it is federally prosecuted under statutes for extortion, sexual assault, and child pornography.
The 28-year-old Ostrowski engaged in sextortion and the production of child pornography beginning in 2006. He targeted children and adults in 13 different states including Pennsylvania, New York, California, Florida, Ohio, Virginia, and Minnesota.
Ostrowski was the head football coach at Wilkes-Barre High School, in the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania, during the 2011-2012 school year. The Diocese suspended him when he was arrested in the weight room of the school in May 2012. He will likely serve 25 years in prison.
Ostrowski’s case illustrates the danger posed by the wealth of online social media outlets and their ease of access for children and adults of all ages. Ostrowski was able to prey on unsuspecting victims in multiple states through Skype and then post sexually explicit videos and pictures on Facebook. Sadly, with such great ease of access to these and other forms of social media, many children are vulnerable to sextortion by online predators. This case once again emphasizes the need for parents and educators to be vigilant in their efforts to protect children from predators like Ostrowski.
Jeff Anderson is an attorney and advocate working with survivors of clergy sexual abuse at Jeff Anderson & Associates.