8News Investigates: Revenge Porn

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RICHMOND (WRIC)—Selling explicit
photos of former lovers to racy websites is a rising trend among malicious
ex-lovers.

With just a few clicks of the
keyboard, countless victims are being turned into unknowing porn stars.

“Sara,” a stay-at-home mom who has
asked 8News not to reveal her real name, is one of these victims.

“It was a nightmare,” she said. “When
I first found out, I was absolutely devastated. I was crying and sobbing and
angry and just embarrassed.”

Many “revenge porn” sites advertise
themselves as the perfect way to get back at an ex. 8News Investigative Reporter A.J.
Lagoe
discovered that numerous Central Virginians have had their most
intimate moments turned into public spectacles.

Sara recently had some photos from
her past come back to haunt her. Before she found her picture on one of these
sites, she had never heard of revenge porn.

“An ex that I dated a few years ago
posted them on a website,” she said. “He put my first and my last name, the
county I live in, the state and directly linked it to my Facebook page.”

Because of the pictures, Sara began
getting contacted by people looking for anonymous sex.

“They expected that it was something
that I wanted to do, because I was on a porn website that I had no idea I was
put on,” Sara said.

University of Maryland law professor
Danielle Citron is writing a book on revenge porn.

“It's not just incredibly
embarrassing and shameful, but it can lead to the risk of physical attack,”
Citron said.

Citron says the photos can follow
victims for the rest of their lives, even if the original website agrees to
remove them.

“It's an all-out character assault,”
she said.

A Richmond woman, who has asked to
remain anonymous, found pictures of herself posted on the homepage of a revenge
porn site.

“The website was able to tell me
that the picture had been downloaded quite a bit, and there was no way to track
that down,” she said. “I know that they're out there somewhere.”

In many cases, the unknowing porn
stars become virtually unemployable, because the pictures show up in Google
background searches.

“It has a damning economic effect on
an individual,” Citron said.

Lagoe wanted to speak with a revenge
porn poster. He tracked down Sean Weekes, who admits to putting embarrassing
photos of an ex on a revenge porn site.

“Do you feel like you betrayed her
trust?” Lagoe asked. “She gave you intimate photos that were just for you, and
you put ‘em out there for the world to see.”

“No,” Weekes answered, adding that
he posted the pictures because his ex-lover had been harassing him. “No, I don't
see an issue there with someone's property that was given.”

When asked if he thought he had a
right to post the pictures, Weekes said, “I think it was nothing legally wrong …
there was nothing legally wrong with that.”

Weekes is right—what he did is not a
crime. Virginia, like most states, does not have a law prohibiting the
non-consensual posting of pornographic images.

This is something Delegate-elect
Marcus Simon wants to change.

“Using their intimate images as a
weapon against them is really criminal behavior,” Simon said. “It ought to be a
crime.”

Currently, victims can sue in civil
court, which is expensive and time consuming. In addition, the porn sites
themselves are given broad immunity for civil liability under federal law. So,
with little currently in the way of legal deterrent, revenge porn victims have
almost nowhere to turn.

Sara says the ordeal will likely
haunt her for the rest of her life.

“It's just a scary thought,” said
the woman who wishes to remain anonymous. “The only way to avoid them being out
there is just not to do it.”

Simon says he's hoping the laws he
plans to introduce will serve as a deterrent before revenge porn claims more
victims.

 

Copyright 2013 by Young
Broadcasting of Richmond

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