What To Do If You're The Victim Of Revenge Porn

 
How to help yourself, and other victims of revenge porn.

How to help yourself, and other victims of revenge porn.

Last Wednesday, Robert Kardashian went on a social media rampage, posting private, intimate photos of his ex-fiancée, Blac Chyna, to the Internet without her consent.

Kardashian’s actions reportedly constitute revenge porn, otherwise known as sexual cyber harassment and nonconsensual pornography. No matter what you call it, revenge porn isn't just completely horrifying; it's totally unlawful.

This morning, Blac Chyna, alongside her lawyer, Lisa Bloom, announced their plans to file for a temporary domestic violence restraining order against Kardashian. The domestic violence restraining order would require Kardashian to not only keep his distance from Chyna, but also stop posting about her on the Internet, as well.

But what can, and should, you do if something like this happens to you?

“In every state, nonconsensual porn is unlawful, meaning, it violates at least one law of that state and it probably violates many laws of that state,” says Erica Johnstone, a privacy lawyer at Ridder, Costa & Johnstone.

Johnstone is the co-founder and vice president of Without My Consent, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that develops educational materials to empower victims of digital abuse to seek justice across the United States. Without My Consent’s 50-State Project lists all of the laws in your state that may be violated in a nonconsensual porn fact pattern. 

“In some states, nonconsensual porn is also a crime,” not just unlawful, says Johnstone. “The Cyber Civil Rights Initiative has been essential to this criminalization by advocating for the idea that nonconsensual porn should be a criminal issue and making that idea a reality by drafting model legislation and consulting with legislators.”

As of now, only 38 states, plus Washington D.C., have revenge porn laws and they all differ in scope. Navigating state laws when you're the victim of a revenge porn crime, then, can feel a little overwhelming, especially if you’re not a reality star with ample resources. Or if you’re dealing with a case in which the perpetrator is working under the guise of anonymity.

“It’s not always about revenge,” says Elisa D’Amico, a partner lawyer at K&L Gates, and the co-founder of the Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project, a global K&L Gates pro bono project providing legal services to victims of nonconsensual pornography.

“In the Kardashian case, it seems to be about revenge, but in other cases it’s either for play or for no revenge at all, just because it is what it is,” says D’Amico.

Proving that an act of cyber sexual harassment has occurred is not hard, but identifying perpetrators can be a different story.

“We use computer forensics, forensic evidence … to prove that a specific individual is involved,” says D’Amico. “That’s not always easy, sometimes it’s very clear cut, but sometimes it’s more difficult than you’d think, even though you’ve got individuals who are clearly in pain and suffering, and can’t get a job or get thrown out of school…sometimes the legal remedy is imperfect, and we’re working with imperfect tools to fix a problem.”

What should you do if you live in a state where the revenge porn laws are imperfect, or even lackluster?

This is where you as a citizen play a role in bringing about change,” says Johnstone. “Support, fund, and take direction from CCRI. CCRI teaches you how to help get a law against nonconsensual pornography passed in your state.

"But passing a criminal law is only one of nine things every state needs in order to be able to answer 'yes' to the question 'Is your state a place that safeguards its citizens’ ability to make a living, to obtain an education, to engage in civic activities, and to express themselves—free from nonconsensual porn?'”

Without My Consent provides a “Grade Your State” checklist that breaks down each of those nine requirement to ensure that your state, and every state, implements revenge porn laws that not only work, but are used and enforced. 

And as celebrity news gossip risks normalizing revenge porn, that's never been more necessary.

Words: Kaylen Ralph
Photo: Daria Kobayashi Ritch