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When Internet Love Goes Bad, Revenge Porn Can Go Viral

When Internet Love Goes Bad, Revenge Porn Can Go ViralNice girls don’t send out naked pictures of themselves.

What did you think would happen? It’s your own fault.

How could you have been so stupid?

That’s the kind of thing victims of revenge pornography hear when they complain after their exes post private sexual images of them all over the internet. “Revenge porn” occurs when ex-lovers, nearly always men, and nearly always with the intention of humiliating and inflicting pain on their former sexual partners.

Revenge porn victims like Holly Jacobs and Rebekah Wells say they feel like rape victims who get blamed for the incident. Just as people say, “You shouldn’t have worn that outfit – you shouldn’t have been out drinking,” to rape victims, they are told they should never have allowed the pictures to be taken, according to Jacobs. Jacobs had a collage of her pictures go viral on more than 2,000 websites in 2011 after breaking up with a boyfriend two years earlier. Wells found an entire website devoted to nude pictures of her. The two have since become activists in a movement to help others with similar stories.

“I am victimized every time someone types my name into the computer,” Wells says. “The crime scene is right before everyone’s eyes. And then I am treated as if I am the one who committed the crime.”

Pictures often land up not only revenge porn websites but also on numerous porn sites managed by both amateurs and porn industry professionals. Many times the woman’s real name, hometown, workplace address and other identifying information are posted right under her pictures. One victim who lives in a small town had neighbors and friends come up to her every time she went out, and comment on her nude pictures and her “availability.”

“I felt like an involuntary porn star,” one victim told a reporter, and that is an accurate description of exactly what happens to these women. One woman even found a record of various chats between men wanting to have sex with her and a prostitute posing as her and using her picture and identity.

It is almost impossible to get every trace of revenge porn removed from the Internet, even if victims hire experts who specialize in this activity.

Victims of revenge porn are increasingly fighting back by setting up internet communities to support one another, sharing information with media outlets, and lobbying state legislatures for stricter laws. Currently when women do go to police to report the incidents, they are told they consented to the taking of the photos, they were not minors when they consented, and the publication of the pictures is not considered sexual harassment.

New Jersey already has a law against revenge porn, and California is considering one that would make revenge porn a misdemeanor with fines up to $2,000 and prisons terms of one year. A similar measure recently failed in Florida. Certain groups like the American Civil Liberties Union oppose revenge porn laws on the basis of the right to free speech, and they also argue that these issues are already covered under sexual harassment, anti-stalking and breach of trust statutes.

Other experts believe that revenge porn should be outlawed not just by individual states but by federal law as well, and that the websites who provide the outlet for the pictures should be held liable along with the ex-boyfriends who supply the images.

“The only way that we will get real change is if there is a serious criminal statute on the books,” according to Mary Anne Franks, a University of Miami law professor. And she is one who believes this serious statute should apply throughout the United States under federal law.

References

O’Connor, Maureen. The Crusading Sisterhood of Revenge Porn Victims,” The New York Magazine, August 29, 2013.

Sengupta, Somini, ‘Revenge Porn’ Could Be Criminal Offense in California,” The New York Times, August 27, 2013.

Thompson, Dan. “Lawmakers aim to limit ‘revenge porn’ postings,” The San Francisco Chronicle, August 25, 2013.

Wells, Behkah. “An Involuntary Porn Star: My Story,” see womenagainstrevengeporn.com

Wilkey, Robin. “Revenge Porn May Soon Be Illegal in California,” The Huffington Post, August 27, 2013.

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