The Digital Scourge of Revenge Porn, and How Victims Can Fight Back

It’s easy to forget that the convenience of instant information provided by our phones and computers comes at a price—particularly when it comes to keeping our private lives private. A scary scenario keeps happening. It’s known as “revenge porn.” It occurs when two consenting adults use a digital device to store intimate images, often of a sexual nature. Then after the relationship sours, one of those individuals disseminates the images of the other person online out of bitterness. As one can imagine, the person whose privacy is violated will be traumatized, humiliated, and may even experience difficulties in their personal and professional lives.

Revenge porn is unlawful, and there is legal recourse for those whose privacy has been violated in this manner.

This article is about nonconsensual image sharing (aka revenge porn), and what state law has to say about the practice. If you’ve been a victim of this type of unwanted digital sharing, consider scheduling a consultation with the office of Sean Reis to discuss your case, and learn how he can help.

Couple in bed

A High-Profile Incident Involving Revenge Porn

In 2014, a Los Angeles man named Joe Iniguez was accused of posting a topless photo of his ex-girlfriend on Facebook using an alias account. The Los Angeles city attorney accused Iniguez of also making derogatory comments about the girl online and encouraging her employer to fire her. The woman had secured a restraining order against the man in 2011. Iniguez became the first person convicted under the state’s criminal revenge porn law, which makes it illegal to post nude photos of other people online without their permission with the intention of causing emotional distress or humiliating them.

Inguinez was sentenced to one year in jail, ordered to serve 36 months’ probation and attend domestic violence counseling.

It’s important to remember that while this particular case involved the criminal justice system,  a civil law also exists for those who wish to seek financial compensation from persons who post online revenge porn images.

California’s Civil Law Against Revenge Porn

California Civil Code §1708.85 states the following:

“A private cause of action lies against a person who intentionally distributes by any means a photograph, film, videotape recording, or any other reproduction of another, without the other’s consent, if (1) the person knew the other person had a reasonable expectation that the material would remain private, (2) the distributed material exposes an intimate body part of the other person, or shows the other person engaging in an act of intercourse, oral copulation or sodomy, or other act of sexual penetration, and (3) the other person suffers general or special damages [as defined by law]”

General damages include:

  • loss of reputation
  • shame
  • mortification
  • hurt feelings

Special damages relate to a person’s business, property, trade or profession. These damages also include the money a victim of revenge porn spends as a result of the injury (for instance hiring a service to remove offending images from the internet).

It’s not difficult to see how a person, whose business or career is damaged by the publishing of sensitive images could suffer both general and special damages. It may be possible to recover financial losses (and then some) with the help of a good attorney.

When a Cause of Action Exists

There are a number of different situations that could qualify as revenge porn. One of the more common scenarios we attorneys see involves a person who was photographed or video recorded (often on a cell phone) by an ex. After the relationship sours, the angry ex publically posts the pictures on social media out of bitterness over the failed relationship.

Another situation that could qualify involves a person hacking into the personal account of an individual and downloading private photos, then publishing them in an online forum. This could be done by a person with no relation to the victim. Such an incident occurred in 2014 when someone hacked into the iCloud accounts of several female actresses, including Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence. The images were shared widely on the social media site 4-chan.

In 2017, Rob Kardashian and former fiancé Blac Chyna made the news when Kardashian allegedly shared a photo on his Instagram account of what he claimed was his ex’s vagina. He commented that he felt disrespected by Chyna after buying her expensive jewelry.

But I Consented to the Photo When We Were Dating. Do I Still Have a Case?

Generally speaking, the answer is yes. Just because you allow a boyfriend or a girlfriend to take an intimate photo of you, doesn’t mean you don’t have an expectation that the photo will remain private between the two of you. What matters in the eyes of the law is whether you consented to the sharing of the private image. Intimate photo sharing is something that has occurred between couples for many years. What’s changed is the ease with which a disgruntled former friend or lover can upload such content to be viewed by a worldwide audience.

Contact an Attorney

If your privacy has been violated by a person who posted sensitive images of you online, or in some other public forum, it could be worth your time and effort to discuss your case with our office. A good attorney will be able to effectively seek a fair settlement for your pain and suffering, or effectively present your case to a civil jury. A person who has experienced the trauma of revenge porn may be entitled to the following:

  • Pain and Suffering Damages
  • Lost Wages
  • Punitive Damages
  • Attorney’s Fees

If you have questions about revenge porn, or some other personal injury topic, contact our office to schedule a consultation and learn how we can help.

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