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What is Revenge Porn And What Can You Do About It?

Posted by Stephanie Sherman | Mar 15, 2022 | 0 Comments

(Sherman Law Blog | March 15, 2022)

Nonconsensual pornography or cyber sexual abuse, commonly known as revenge porn, is the act of sharing an intimate photo of another individual without their consent. Posting nude, partially nude, or sexually explicit images of someone without their permission online or forwarding private photos via text is considered nonconsensual pornography.

This issue is on the rise because of the widespread use of technology and ease of uploading and distributing images. Partners may take intimate videos or photographs during the relationship and when the relationship is over, one partner might use the images to embarrass, harass, intimidate, bribe, or threaten the other.  For example, a dumped partner may threaten to send the images to other's boss, or co-workers, if she doesn't reconcile.  A person may impersonate their victim on social media sites and expose the explicit images through those channels. A co-worker may distribute the images at work to hurt the person's chances of advancement.  With technology, the possibilities of exposure are endless, and so are the damages.  

These acts are abuse. It does not matter that the images were taken with consent at the time.  Once the images are forwarded by email or text or published without consent, the images become nonconsensual pornography, and a crime in most states. 

The Damage Caused by Revenge Porn.

While men and women are equally involved in creating and participating in explicit images, most victims of nonconsensual pornography are women.  The consequences to the abuser have historically been light, if any.  Until recently, most statutes did not consider revenge porn a crime.  Now most states have cyber harassment, stalking, and cyber bulling laws that carry fines and jail penalties.  

The emotional and financial consequences of revenge porn to the victim can be crippling.  Victims experience symptoms similar to victims of sexual abuse including anxiety, depression, panic attacks, night terrors, insomnia, and isolation. Victims may pull back from work, friends, and family and isolate in their homes.  Victims' functionality in daily life can become impaired.  Even if the images aren't published, being under the threat of nonconsensual porn causes the victim to be in constant fear of the exposure, which is rewarding to the abuser who is trying to hurt and/or control the victim.  Nonconsensual pornography can take an otherwise intelligent, successful, and highly functioning person down and put them in a dark deep hole.  

If the victim is a woman, which is most likely, she will also face greater social and cultural consequences than men for taking these types of photos at all. Women are more likely than men to be victim-blamed and shamed, according to research from the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative. “The first reaction is, why would she do that?”  And not, “Why would someone do that to her?”  Or, "She should have known better, how could she be so stupid!"  A man's public explicit images may receive little to no adverse reaction.  They may even be applauded. 

Nonconsensual pornography ruins careers.  As you have seen in the media, politicians have been forced to step down or withdraw from elections when explicit sexual images are disclosed to the public. The reaction needs to be "That person needs to go to jail for doing that!"  Its an invasion of privacy.

Revenge Porn Is Emotionally Damaging to Victims
Nonconsensual Pornography is Not a Free Speech Protected by the First Amendment.

Nonconsensual pornography is not free speech protected by the First Amendment. Public disclosure of private facts, defamation, and child pornography, are exempted from free speech protections and so should this.  Nonconsensual pornography has no value to society or the foundations of autonomy and democracy of our country.  It does not promote the free exchange of ideas.  Nonconsensual pornography is abuse done with malicious intent to harm someone and should not be protected in any way.

What are Your Rights to Protection Against Distribution of Nonconsensual Pornography?

You have the right to expect that private images remain private. 

You have the right to demand that the images be destroyed or taken down. 

You have the right to hold the abuser accountable through criminal and/or civil action.

Website Platforms Are Protected From Liability.

Under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, internet platforms are NOT liable for third party content, or for removing any third-party content.  Currently, websites are shielded from liability if they post your explicit images and refuse to take them down.  This law was enacted in the early days of internet to allow creativity and free flow of information.  Things have changed and now abusers and criminals are using this law to escape liability.  The U.S. Attorney General's Office has proposed legislative change that hopefully will be enacted soon. You can read the U.S. Attorney General's Letter to Congress, 2020  here.

What Can You Do If You Are a Victim of Revenge Porn?

Check your state's laws on:  nonconsensual pornography, cyber bullying, cyber harassment, and stalking.

Call the police.

Call a civil lawyer.  If the damages are severe, a civil lawyer can file a civil lawsuit for an injunction to stop the distribution, for invasion of privacy, violation of the applicable state's law, fraud, defamation, or other claims that relate to your particular circumstances.  Damages may include but are not limited to emotional distress, medical and therapy costs, and lost wages or loss of income.    

Sherman Law investigates and prosecutes revenge porn, sexual harassment, and sexual assault/abuse claims throughout the country. These cases must be handled delicately, and you can be assured that Sherman Law will treat you with kindness, dignity, and compassion.  Your consultation is private and confidential. There is no obligation to move forward unless you are ready.  There is no fee, unless there is a recovery. Take ACTION now before its too late.  You do not need to wait until the criminal case is complete.  

About the Author

Stephanie Sherman

On June 1, 2022, I joined the nationwide award-winning law firm, Baum Hedlund.  I am grateful to join this elite group of trailblazers that is so deeply committed to taking on tough cases and fighting for the underdog. You can still reach me here, via my bio page or at 800-827-0087. Stephani...

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