5 Steps You MUST Take If You're A Victim Of Revenge Porn

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5 Steps You MUST Take If You're A Victim Of Revenge Porn
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As written by a lawyer.

Sharing pictures of yourself with your friends is normal. But when someone else posts explicit pictures of you without your permission, that’s not normal: It’s a violation of your rights, and it’s illegal.

Non-consensual pornography (NCP) or revenge porn can impact every part of your life, from personal relationships to security clearances. It isn’t just a celebrity problem; the recent Marines United Facebook group has made it clear that everyone is at risk of revenge porn. Even if you didn’t share explicit photos, someone might take them off you for malicious use.

 

First Step: Consider the Source of the Pictures

If you took the picture, then you own the picture. Under Federal copyright law, you control the distribution of the image. You can use this to assert your legal right to halt the unauthorized use of the picture, have it removed from websites and hold the perpetrator financially accountable.

Check out the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative to understand how copyright law can be used to protect your rights.

If someone else took the images and posted without your permission, then that can be an invasion of privacy in civil law. Everyone has a reasonable expectation of privacy when it comes to sexually explicit images.

No case has made its way to the Supreme Court regarding First Amendment rights or freedom of speech for NCP. But constitutional law scholar Erwin Chemerinsky, when commenting on the proposed federal law to criminalize NCP said, “The First Amendment does not protect a right to invade a person’s privacy by publicizing, without consent, nude photographs or videos of sexual activity.”

Taking photos of you without your permission and posting them without your consent is a form of abuse and harassment. States differ in their categorization of this as a crime. Currently, 35 states and DC have laws that address NCP as a crime. States that lack a specific NCP law will have other laws that can be used to protect you, including unlawful surveillance, extortion, and cyber-stalking.

Federal criminal law has been introduced which would standardize enforcement and prosecution of NCP.

 

Second Step: Screen Shot Everything

Documentation is essential. Take screen shots of every occurrence and detail that you find. Include your own communications as well as the perpetrator’s. Do this with every Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, etc. that shows up on your screen.

Do a google search on your name and see what comes up. Don’t assume that the image or pages will be easily accessible forever. Put all the evidence in a folder and back it up.

Looking at the images can be emotionally devastating. Consider enlisting a trusted advocate when it gets too hard.

 

 

Third Step: Hire a Civil Lawyer

The impact of revenge porn can be costly. The person who did the posting, not you, should have to bear these costs. Find a lawyer who understands the issues of NCP and can help hold the perpetrator and others who assisted, accountable.

Depending on your case, you may have to pay an hourly fee or the lawyer may take the case on contingency. Law firms are developing this as a practice area and you will benefit from their expertise. For example, the New York law firm of Carrie Goldberg Law provides a model of what lawyers can achieve on your behalf.

There are many others ― familiarize yourself with what you can expect before you call a firm. Contact Protect Our Defenders or other military-oriented advocacy groups to get advice on actions involving service members.

A lawyer will keep you focused on holding the perpetrator accountable and removing the damaging materials. They will talk with you about different grounds you may have for filing a suit, such as invasion of privacy, breach of confidence, or extortion. They will tell you about time limits to file your case. They should also explain the way that financial judgments can be collected through settlements, garnishments, and property sale.

 

Fourth Step: Report it to Authorities

Work with your lawyer to report the non-consensual porn to the authorities. Depending on your relationship to the offender, you should be reporting to the local police, college, or your workplace.

Your lawyer will help protect you from further trauma. And they will make sure that the authorities deal with the charges properly. Many law enforcement and human resources staff are ill-equipped to do this part of their job. The presence of a civil lawyer will help them adhere to the procedures and take it seriously.

 

Fifth Step: Hold the Perpetrator Financially Accountable

The myriad of expensive problems that arise from revenge porn should be paid for by the perpetrator and those who assisted in the illegal activity. Keep a list of costs that are due to dealing with the problems. The costs can include everything from the time you have to take off from work or school (for legal and counseling appointments) to the payment of reputation management services, to your job losses. The perpetrator who posted the photos should be paying for these expenses, not you.

 

Non-consensual pornography or revenge porn can be eliminated right now.

The information is available electronically to identify the person or people involved and to remove the illegal images. Legal action, whether through the civil, criminal, or military justice system, should be pursued in 100% of the cases.

When perpetrators are held financially accountable for the injuries they have caused, then this behavior will end. Revenge porn should become a sad footnote in the history of social media and the internet, not a new mechanism for terrorizing others.

 

M.E. Karns MPH JD is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Social Statistics at Cornell University. Karns was Procedural Advocate for the Complainant, Cornell University, 2014-2016 and is a 2017 Public Voices Fellow with the OpEd Project. Karns is not affiliated with any of the organizations mentioned. All opinions expressed are her own.

 

 

This article was originally published at The Huffington Post. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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