WTF Is Revenge Porn And Why Isn’t It Illegal Everywhere? [Lady Bits]

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Bad breakups suck. You have to pick up the emotional pieces, get your stuff back, maybe change your number, and… check for naked photos of yourself on the internet? As ridiculous as that might sound, it’s becoming a disturbingly common problem. With “revenge porn” sites growing in popularity, there’s a very real chance that if anyone has naked photos of you, they could end up on the internet.

Even worse, they could end up posted along with your personal information, like your home address, phone number, and social media profiles. And the worst, worst part? That’s totally legal in every state except for one: New Jersey. Anywhere else, if someone has nude or sexually graphic pictures of you, taken with or without your knowledge, they can upload them to the internet. Dear New Jersey: you are great. I’m sorry for all the times I’ve made fun of you. I promise to lay off. (New Jersey’s invasion of privacy law, which criminalizes revenge porn, was most famously used in the Tyler Clementi case.)

It’s not that all perpetrators of revenge porn go unpunished. It is possible for a victim of revenge porn to file a civil lawsuit to have photos removed from websites, and even to sue the person who uploaded them. But that route involves many complications – in the first place, that could cost a victim hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. Revenge porn websites also present unique hurdles since many use a model in which members submit photos anonymously. Even if a person knows who is sharing pictures of them, it can be difficult to prove without serious legal maneuvering. As a result, many victims of revenge porn are left on their own, with little help from law enforcement.

Over the past few years, a movement has sprung up to force our laws to catch up with internet creeps. At the forefront of that movement is End Revenge Porn, a nonprofit founded by Holly Jacobs. The victim-turned-activist went public last year after a five-year battle with vicious revenge porn. Jacobs’ case was so extreme that she was forced to change her name.

After her initial discovery of pictures posted by an ex-boyfriend, Jacobs hired a lawyer. Her lawyer sent a threatening letter to her ex, and he took the photos down. But some time later, she began to receive emails alerting her to the fact that her photos were posted all over revenge porn websites. The photos went viral, along with information about the school Jacobs attended, where she worked, and her email address.

The most horrific moment for Jacobs arrived when she received an email threatening to release a video of her. The video was eventually posted online, which was what prompted Jacobs to change her name, shedding her old identity. She has since filed a lawsuit against her ex and the sites that posted her photos and personal information.

Recently, more state legislatures have shown interest in criminalizing revenge porn. In Florida, Jacobs’ home state, a bill is being considered that would make it illegal to post nude photos of someone online without their consent. However, activists are dissatisfied with some aspects of the bill. The law would not protect against the distribution of photos taken in public places, and because it only covers photos involving nudity, other sexually graphic images are left out. For example, a man could ejaculate on his sleeping girlfriend’s face and upload the picture to the internet, and that wouldn’t be illegal.

In California, an anti-revenge porn bill recently cleared the state assembly on a unanimous vote. It will now head back to the senate for changes, and then on to Governor Jerry Brown. However, that bill only protects against photos taken by the person who posts them. In other words, if you sext someone and they post the picture that you took online, that’s still legal.

So.. are there naked pictures of you floating around cyberspace? If there were, would you be able to get them taken down? It’s a scary thought. These legislative efforts are a start, but currently, it’s still legal to publish non-consensual porn without the subject’s consent in 49 states. Are you protected under the law in your state?

[Lead image via jwblinn/Shutterstock]

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