Falling Victim to 'Revenge Porn'

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    NEWSLETTERS

    It's called revenge porn. Former flames post naked or intimate photos of their exes online. In many cases, police can do nothing about it. (Published Monday, Nov 4, 2013)

    It's cruel and can destroy lives with the click of a mouse. We're talking about revenge porn. It's when naked or intimate photos once shared with a boyfriend or girlfriend wind up online after the relationship ends and someone wants revenge.
     
    It happened to a Florida woman named Holly Jacobs, and now she's fighting back.

    "It's everybody's worst nightmare," said Jacobs.

    Jacobs was 26-years-old when her world was turned upside down.

    "It went from feeling completely violated, to feeling terrified for your own physical safety," said Jacobs.

    Naked pictures she sent to her boyfriend when they were in an intimate, trusting relationship went viral after they split; appearing on dozens of websites along with detailed information.

    "My work information was posted with them, my work position and where I worked, a link to the site where I worked," explained Jacobs.

    Jacobs said she never consented to have the pictures posted online. Desperate to have them taken down, she said she turned to police and the FBI for help, but they couldn't do a thing because posting naked pictures of someone without their consent isn't a crime in most states; including where Jacobs lives, in Florida. Jacobs told NBC Connecticut she was so worried for her safety, she changed her name and left her job. 

    "I was terrified of somebody coming and physically harming me."

    Jacobs isn't alone. Experts say what happened to her happens more often than you'd think. Just recently, 20 girls from Plainville learned their naked pictures were on a porn site.

    "The girls were obviously shocked and alarmed by learning that their nude images were on this website," said Detective Nicholas Mullins with the Plainville Police Dept.

    Some of the girls were identified by name on the site. Investigators said Nicholas Olsen, 22, obtained the images from friends and put them online.

    "Some of these photographs changed hands several times," said Det. Mullins.

    Investigators said the girls willingly sent the photos years ago to their then-boyfriends, but because 16 of them were between the ages of 12 and 15 when the photos were taken, Olsen was charged with child pornography.

    NBC Connecticut wanted to ask Olsen if he really did post those pictures; our calls to his attorney went unanswered, and nobody answered when we stopped by Olsen's Plainville home.

    Police say even though the pictures were of underage girls, they haven't been able to remove them because they're on an overseas website.

    "This is a form of sexual assault. I call this 'cyber rape' because it absolutely is," said Jacobs.

    Jacobs knows firsthand, how traumatizing revenge porn can be. After years of emotional distress, she decided to step out of the shadows and help victims. She started the "End Revenge Porn" campaign to target people who distribute nude photos of someone without their consent.

    Some states agree that revenge porn should be a crime. In California, revenge porn is a misdemeanor. People convicted of distributing sexual images without consent may face six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
    In New Jersey, offenders can face felony charges.

    Connecticut has no anti-revenge porn law. However, state lawmakers are considering such legislation admit it's not so simple. The law needs to be broad enough to protect victims, but narrow enough to protect free speech.

    "It's not as simple as 'this is bad, we shouldn't do it.' I think everyone would agree it's the type of behavior that shouldn't be tolerated, and it's the type of thing we should look to restrict and limit," said State Rep. Gerald Fox (D-Stamford).
    State Rep. Fox said leaders are currently in the research phase.

    "We're trying to come up with what we can do and what would be the appropriate remedy…it's my expectation and hope that we can come up with something by February," added State Rep. Fox

    If Connecticut passes an anti-revenge porn law, it would be a victory for Jacobs, who said her ultimate goal is to have a federal law that protects everyone from revenge porn.

    So, how best to avoid this problem? Experts say don't take naked pictures of yourself or share them.