Revenge Porn- Not only a Women’s Issue

Posted on Jun 17 2013 - 7:30pm by Katelyn Connor

Revenge-Porn

Last week, Star magazine featured a gossip article about Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher’s most recent break. Apparently, Moore wanted to “get revenge” on her ex after he cheated on her and then publicly rebounded right after their break. So, she decided to leak several explicit images of Kutcher that she had saved on her phone, all the while claiming that “he’s lacking in a certain department” below the belt.

This story is definitely one of the less realistic ones. Let’s be real- wouldn’t Demi have wanted revenge two years ago when they first broke up? But, it does bring about an interesting perspective to “revenge porn.”

Revenge porn is when an ex (usually an ex-boyfriend) posts intimate pictures and videos of their ex-girlfriend online without their consent in order to get back for a failed relationship or a fallout between the two. Not only can this be mortifying to the girlfriend, but also extremely dangerous if anyone gets a hold of her personal information, which many times the website has access to. Although this revenge is so dangerous, it’s extremely hard to catch. The tricky thing about revenge porn is that the poster is anonymous, and the website can’t be held accountable for the uploads posted by users due to the Communications Decency Act, which gives websites immunity to the information users post unless the information is criminal. As of today, both New Jersey and Florida have laws that fight against this type of abuse to make it a criminal act of sexual violence, with California also working towards passing a bill.

About two months ago there was a special segment on Huffpost Live with Michael Sacks featuring Dr. Charlotte Laws, a former California Politician, Erica Johnstone, civil attorney and co-founder of “Without My Consent”, Mary Anne Franks, law professor at University of Miami, and Sarah, an anonymous victim of revenge porn based in Miami. This segment covered the effectiveness and importance of developing laws against revenge porn. In order to shed more light on the issue, the women spoke about the trauma and conditions of the laws, which bring to light how this issue is a form of sexual assault.

During the conversation, Franks and Johnstone laid out the Florida and New Jersey laws and compared the two. The Florida and New Jersey laws are the only two in the country that work to protect citizens of this victimization. Florida House Bill 787 “prohibits knowing use of [content] that depicts nudity and contains any of the depicted individual’s personal identification information or counterfeit or fictitious purporting to be such personal identification information, without first obtaining depicted person’s written consent.” Although this does address the issue, there are many loopholes to this bill. It does not cover anonymous pictures, pictures of sex acts or sexual penetration, or handing out physical copies of the explicit material. This is how the anonymous victim Sarah, had her pictures sent to her boss and a coworker and was unable to take action due to finances and limits of the law.

In New Jersey, the law is much simpler and comprehensive, since it is based on the Tyler Clemente tragedy. It states “an actor commits a crime of the third degree if, knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so, he discloses any photograph, film, videotape, recording, or any other reproduction of the image of another person whose intimate parts are exposed or who is engaged in an act of sexual penetration or sexual contact, unless that person has consented to such disclosure.” This covers all nude and sexually explicit material, whether or not the person in the photo is identified.

Although one is clearly more comprehensive than the other, Franks explained that both laws make revenge porn a felony, so law enforcement can subpoena the information from the website and can confiscate the perpetrator’s computer and files that contain the sexually explicit material.
Dr. Laws, whose daughter was a victim of revenge porn, termed the act as “cyber rape.” Victims are silenced and react the same way they would if they were physically abused. They want to disappear from the online world and hope it goes away. Unfortunately, knee-jerk reaction is the opposite of what is actually effective. Dr. Laws advises to build up an online presence to find out where the photos and information is located in order to get them off the internet and save the sanctity of the victim’s online presence.

On the legal side, Franks explains that the laws are still catching up with technology, which is why there is such a slow startup when addressing this issue legally. When looking into the future of cyber abuse, the best option for the country when looking at this specific felony is to made a federal blanket law that is all encompassing like the New Jersey law. Instead of waiting for 47 other countries to begin to pass laws that have too many loopholes, federal legislation should quickly take action in addressing this issue.

Although this crime is extremely gendered toward violence against women, Ashton Kutcher (whether the rumors are true or not), as well as countless other celebrities, is equally a victim of this action. Many people have experienced this mortification and it doesn’t matter whether the victims are celebrities or not, it’s all the same action. This type of sexual abuse silences and demoralized victims in a way where there is less control. It’s time the government addresses the issue and defends the rights to all people’s privacy.

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