Victims of 'revenge porn' have little recourse in AZ - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff


Victims of 'revenge porn' have little recourse in AZ

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"Jenny" says she felt afraid and alone after discovering naked pictures of herself on the Internet she says were posted by her ex-lover. (Source: CBS 5 News) "Jenny" says she felt afraid and alone after discovering naked pictures of herself on the Internet she says were posted by her ex-lover. (Source: CBS 5 News)
Only two states have made revenge porn illegal. (Source: CBS 5 News) Only two states have made revenge porn illegal. (Source: CBS 5 News)

Naked women, sexy poses and explicit photos can be found everywhere on the internet, but some Arizona women are not being featured on typical pornography sites - they are victims of revenge porn.

Their images are held hostage in a place they never wanted to be. They're most often the target of malicious ex-lovers who outed their most intimate photos after a bad breakup.

The victims are mostly women who are nearly powerless to get the photos down. Some of them have lost jobs, relationships and their self-esteem.

"It's like, you know, you're sitting at the bottom of a really long well and you're screaming at the top of your lungs and no one can help you," described a courageous victim CBS 5 will call "Jenny."

She was afraid and alone. That's how Jenny said she felt after discovering naked pictures of herself on the internet. An anonymous text alerted her to the horror.

"My stomach fell. It dropped to the floor," Jenny said.

And then she describes another emotion.

"I was so angry. I said, 'I cannot believe this is out for the whole world to see right now,'" said a tearful Jenny.

So far 13,000 people have viewed her intimate photos, and the number is climbing.

"It's just disgusting, the fact that my stuff is out there," she said.

The 22-year-old medical assistant said she has no doubt how her private pictures became public.

Jenny said she sent them to her boyfriend of three years, and only to him.

"He was my first love. I loved him more than anything," she said.

The two were still seeing each other when he married someone else. Jenny gave the new wife a heads-up about their two-timing man. Hours later, she paid the price.

"The next day, I saw those pictures online," Jenny said.

Posted along with her naked photos, more private information - Jenny's age, the city where she lives and her phone number.

That prompted some nasty phone calls all hours of the night from strange guys propositioning her, and she received several lewd texts as well.

"He just wanted revenge," she said of her ex.

Jenny's story is far from isolated.

Revenge porn is running rampant on the internet, scorned exes stooping so low, posting intimate sexual photos without their former lover's consent.

What's surprising to know is that the sites that host these photos are most often protected by federal law. What's more, posting the humiliating pictures without consent is not necessarily illegal.

"There is no privacy," said John Iannarelli, who heads up the FBI squad that fights crimes committed over the internet.

He said the agency gets involved in many cases where the site demands hundreds of dollars to take the photos down.

"When extortion is involved, someone with a badge is doing something about it," he said.

But Iannarelli says even then, not every case is criminal. There are laws against cyber-harassment, which is often difficult to prove. 

"Dedicated lawmakers may look at the issue and want to have legislation in place, yet technology has moved so quickly, new issues are already coming up," Iannarelli said.

CBS 5 Investigates found dozens of victims in Arizona. Understandably, the majority of them didn't want to talk.

The painful online attacks are becoming more prevalent, and there's not much being done to shut it down.

"It's never going to stop. It's just going to keep growing," said Scottsdale attorney Aaron Kelly.

Kelly said if victims can afford thousands of dollars to hire a lawyer, they can try to sue based on invasion of privacy, copyright issues or intentional infliction of emotional distress.

It's "probably one of the most difficult types of case that I would have, because you've got very sensitive issues in the first place. The photo was sent consensually, but then it was used inappropriately and without permission," Kelly said.

The internet lawyer said the embarrassment and stress of going to trial turns most victims off.
Also, just because the photo comes down from one site, doesn't mean it's gone for good.

"It's almost like playing whack-a-mole. Every time one pops up on a site and you get it down, it pops up on another site," described Kelly.

But Jenny thinks more needs to be done to protect the victims.

"I think more people need to stand up and come out and fight for this to become illegal," she said.

Right now, only two states have specific laws banning revenge porn - New Jersey and California, where on Tuesday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a new law to hold vengeful lovers accountable.

Jenny said she reached out to her ex-boyfriend to ask him to do the right thing -  to take the pictures down, but she never heard back.

CBS 5 Investigates caught up to him on the street in downtown Phoenix. He would not stop to talk when confronted about the naked pictures of his ex. He simply said, "Good luck with that," before he jumped into his car and drove away.
Victims are hoping that, since California has a new law on the books with fines and jail time as punishment for the crime, maybe other states will follow suit.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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