A Guide for Revenge Porn Victims

Revenge porn is generally defined as a form of online harassment in which sexually explicit photographs or videos of another individual (usually a former partner) are either taken or shared with others without the consent of the person shown in the images. Perceived “revenge” is sometimes the motive, but not always. Sometimes images are circulated merely for titillation or profit. For this reason, some prefer to use terms like “nonconsensual pornography” or “sexual cyberharassment.” Whatever you call it, if images are shared without the consent of the subject, the results can be devastating to victims and can lead to public degradation, social isolation, and professional humiliation.

Revenge porn laws differ from state to state. Virginia law allows victims to sue for damages and reimbursement of attorneys fees, and makes several forms of revenge porn punishable as a crime. Virginia law is not as tough on revenge porn as some other states, however. In Virginia, the dissemination of nude photos taken with the subject’s consent (e.g., selfies) will generally not be punishable under Virginia’s revenge-porn statutes absent an intent to coerce, harass, or intimidate. So while motive usually doesn’t matter much from the perspective of the victim, it can make all the difference in terms of legal remedies available.

What can victims do to protect themselves? Several options are available. Here is what we generally suggest:

Report It. Most conventional social-media sites have policies in place that prohibit the posting of sexually explicit material, or other private photos posted without authorization. Facebook, for example, will review photos that are reported and, if the photo is found to violate their Community Guidelines, they will not only remove the photo from Facebook but will take steps to help thwart further attempts to share the image on Facebook, Messenger and Instagram. Google has also implemented a policy under which it will honor requests to remove revenge porn. Instagram, Reddit, Tumblr, Snapchat, Twitter and Yahoo also ban nonconsensual porn and have processes for reporting it. Even some porn sites, to their credit, have decided not to allow the posting of revenge porn. Usually, reporting an inappropriate photo or video is as easy as clicking a “report” link alongside the post in question and completing a short form.

Preserve the Evidence. While it can be upsetting to do so, you’ll want to save copies of the photos that were shared with others so that you’ll be able to prove your case should the matter end up in court. If you report the matter to the police, they will also likely ask to see some evidence. So take a screenshot. Download the images. And save everything. If the images come up in Google searches when you look up your name, save screenshots of those search results as well, as well as any harassing messages you may be receiving.

Did you take the photograph? By some estimates, roughly 80% of all revenge-porn cases involve selfies. If you took the picture, you own a copyright and are entitled to certain rights. Consider issuing a DMCA takedown notice, either on your own or using a service like DMCA Defender. Google is pretty good about honoring DMCA notices and will usually remove pages containing copyright violations from its search index. This means women-1214048-300x200that even if your naked selfies are posted to the Internet somewhere, people will not be able to find them when they Google your name.

Get Free Help. Before spending money on a lawyer, you may wish to consult one of the many organizations dedicated to helping victims of nonconsensual pornography. The Cyber Civil Rights Initiative is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping victims of online abuse and its website is an excellent resource. Without My Consent provides information about the legal and psychological aspects of revenge porn and also includes practical advice for victims, including a list of recommended conversations to have with your lawyer. Love is Respect also has a collection of helpful articles about both revenge porn and consensual sexting, targeted towards teens.

Call the Police. Revenge porn is a crime in Virginia, but the law is relatively new. If the police don’t seem willing to help or claim the law is not being broken, show them a copy of Va. Code § 18.2-386.1 and § 18.2-386.2. The behavior may also qualify as assault, harassment, or stalking.

Prevent It From Happening Again. You already know this, of course, but abstaining from sending naughty photos to your significant other is the only way to really ensure your private, intimate photos are never displayed to anyone outside the relationship. The love affair may not last forever, and if/when it ends, you can never be sure how those photos might be used against you. If you really must exchange explicit photos with your partner, consider having a lawyer draft a contract governing future use of the photos and providing for liquidated damages and attorneys’ fees in the event of a breach. It’s not very sexy, but can give you a little added peace of mind and protection.

Call Us. Maybe it’s time to consider suing the bastard who did this to you. You may be entitled to damages for emotional distress, harm to reputation, and possibly even copyright infringement. You may also be entitled to punitive damages and reimbursement of all your legal fees. If you feel you’ve already done all you can do on your own and are ready to take the next step towards obtaining justice, give us a call to see if we can help.

 

Contact Us

Virginia: (703) 722-0588
Washington, D.C.: (202) 449-8555
Contact Information