Legislation would make revenge porn a crime - News, Weather and Classifieds for Southern New England

Legislation would make revenge porn a crime

Posted: Updated:

It's called revenge porn -- when an ex uploads an intimate or explicit photo of someone without their permission, usually with identifying information.

"I feel violated that now everybody can see my pictures," said a 13-year-old Rhode Islander who we're calling Sarah to conceal her identity.

She sent photos of herself topless to a 15-year-old boy she dated.

"He forced me to send him the pictures and told me that if I didn't he would tell everyone I had sex with him. So, I didn't want that on my reputation so I sent them to him," Sarah said.

The pictures ended up online.

"Payback for me using him for my ex, maybe, because that's what it said on the website," Sarah said.

Sarah's mother, whom we'll call Anna, said they wanted to share her story in hopes it can help others.

"Parents need to be more aware of what the children have on the websites, have access to," Anna said. "It's so different how you can get back at them with these pictures and you think that it's between you and that person and it's not."

Sarah and her mother reported it to police.

"It was published on a site from someone who was anonymous, saying she was 18 years old. It was an explicit photo. It was published. We've since contacted the site through their law enforcement arm to try to get them to take it down," said Sgt. Matt Ryan of the Woonsocket Police Department.

To no avail. The website is based in Germany and police have gotten no response.

Sarah's case is an example of how young revenge porn victims can be, and police are still actively investigating her case.

But in general, when it comes to adults who post pictures of other adults, law enforcement has their hands tied with revenge porn.

"Right now, it's not a crime," Ryan said.

Because of that, Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin is behind a bill to make revenge porn a felony in the state, but not everyone thinks that's a good idea.

"You are seeing people out there who are getting truly harmed," Kilmartin said.

The legislation would make publishing someone's intimate or explicit photo -- even if it was taken with their consent -- a crime if it is posted it without their consent.

"Someone might think twice if they know there are potential criminal penalties awaiting them should they engage in that activity," Kilmartin said.

The penalty in Rhode Island would be up to three years in prison, a $3,000 fine or both.

Right now, two states in the country have revenge porn laws on the books: California and New Jersey.

"Not only should it be a crime, but it should be, I think, a standalone crime because it really pays it much more the attention that it deserves. We see it increasing all the time," said Peg Langhammer, executive director of Day One, an organization that provides services to victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and other violent crimes.

"I become concerned anytime you're talking about criminalizing an action between two people and criminalizing speech," said Hillary Davis of the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island.

The ACLU says, like it or not, the pictures and videos in question are free speech and that those that who feel they are victims can take civil action.

"A person has the right to go into court and to seek retribution, to seek redress if they've been injured by the release of a video like this," Davis said.

In the case of Sarah, the attorney general's proposed bill wouldn't apply because it specifies people 18 and over. But Sarah's message is valuable nonetheless all can learn from.

"I've never thought it was going to happen to me until it happened," she said.

Powered by WorldNow

23 Kenney Drive
Cranston, R.I., 02920

Telephone: 401.455.9100
Fax: 401.455.9140
Email: news@wjar.com

Can't find something?

NBC 10 Outerwear Provided by:

NBC 10 Media Relations
Provided by:

Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.