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Breaking News: Woman Awarded $6.45 Million in Revenge Porn Case

By April 17, 2018 No Comments
Cover image credit to Getty Images.

According to a report by CNN Money, a federal district court in California last week entered a default judgment against a man and ordered him to pay $6.45 million in damages after he was accused of spreading an ex-girlfriend’s naked pictures and videos online.

This is possibly the second-largest payout for a victim of revenge porn who was not a celebrity, according to the woman’s lawyers.

The unnamed woman, who is a former law student listed as Jane Doe in legal filings, sued the man, David Elam II, in civil court. She alleged copyright infringement, online impersonation with intent to harm, stalking and the intentional infliction of emotional distress.

According to JD Journal, Elam posted the sexually explicit photographs and videos of his ex-girlfriend on the internet, sending links of the images to her mother and a classmate at her law school. He then impersonated her on porn and dating websites, which resulted in her receiving unwanted text messages from strange men who thought she was interested “in indiscriminate sexual relations.” Not cool at all.

Related: Study Shows Similarities Between Victims Of Sexual Assault & Revenge Porn

She was able to obtain a restraining order against Elam but he continued his destructive actions. The order required him to remove the content from the internet and stop impersonating her on the websites. Gutierrez also ordered him, as part of the judgment, to destroy all of the photos and videos.

This case sets a precedent for other revenge porn cases like it. Unfortunately, there’s no federal law against nonconsensually sharing private photos—just a patchwork of state laws. Criminal cases are far and few between.

California has a criminal law on the books. But though a separate criminal case was brought against Elam in 2014, federal prosecutors dropped it two years ago.

But just how common or accepted is revenge porn? And is it that big of a deal for victims?

Victimized by Revenge Porn

Let’s talk about a study that was done a couple of years ago with 18 revenge porn survivors and in-depth interviews about the trauma they’ve experienced.

Here are the results: overall, study participants experienced many disruptive mental health issues after victimization that affected their daily lives. Participants generally engaged in negative coping mechanisms, such as denial and self-medicating, closer to when they were victimized, and turned to positive coping mechanisms, such as seeking counseling, as time passed.

Nearly all participants discussed a general loss of trust in others after being victimized by revenge porn. Many went from being very trusting, to rarely trusting anyone after they were betrayed by someone they loved and cared about. Along with the loss of trust, many participants experienced more severe and disruptive mental health effects. Inductive analysis revealed participants’ experiences of trust issues, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and several other mental health effects.

These findings reveal the seriousness of revenge porn, the devastating impacts it has on survivors’ mental health, and similarities between revenge porn and sexual assault.

Still think revenge porn posting is NBD?

Supply and Demand

The truth is, this is a huge issue. By some reports, 1 in 25 people in the US are victims of revenge porn, according to a 2016 report from the Data & Society Research Institute and the Center for Innovative Public Health Research.

The massive rise of revenge porn incidents highlights a troubling trend—a growing demand for “real” images from real people (even and especially when they’re underage), and total disregard for privacy and trust in the name of entertainment, shares, and “likes.”

The saddest part is that, even when victims feel ashamed and alone, there are tons of other people who have experienced the exact same thing. There are over explicit sites specifically dedicated to sharing revenge porn on the internet, all of which receive enough traffic to continue existing, even despite the existing (but weaker) laws that prosecute people who post revenge porn. The fact is, supply follows demand. And we need to do our part to stop the demand, but successful cases like Jane Doe help to move the needle a little further in favor of victims’ dignity.

RelatedUK Schools Might Start Teaching About The Harms Of Porn & Sexting

We’ve all heard a million times that “sex sells,” but apparently so does humiliation and objectification. Do the clicks and “likes” justify living in a world in which a majority of people agree that revenge porn is totally fine, or a world in which people consume porn even though consumers acknowledge it’s extremely degrading?

Even if something, like non-consensually posting images of someone or sharing confidential photos, can seem harmless at first, it’s degrading, humiliating, and life-ruining.

Let’s fight to stop the demand, and make revenge porn uncool.

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