Wrongfully Exposed

 

Perpetrators and distributors of revenge porn should be fully prosecuted, but more protective legislation needs to be created for the victims.

Revenge porn is a topic that evokes strong emotions from the public at large. It’s also very easy to imagine that this situation is one that only strangers will find themselves in. Despite the constant public display of personal information on popular media platforms, no one likes to consider the fact that they may be vulnerable to this terrible exploitation from a significant other.  The worst possible betrayal by a previously intimate partner is demonstrated in these cases of mortifying public exposure and personal manipulation. A 2012 Pew Research Center study reports that “one in four adults aged 18 to 24 have received sexts — suggestive photos or videos.” Additionally, “nearly one in three adults aged 25 to 34 has received sexts. Among all adults, 15 percent say they have received nude or nearly nude photos or videos of individuals they know.” This shows that a lot more people are vulnerable to the injustice of revenge porn than society generally takes notice of. With cases like that of Kevin Bollaert — the 28-year-old man convicted of posting nude photos and addresses of women to common porn websites and then extorting them for hundreds of dollars — taking place right here in San Diego, revenge porn has never been a more prevalent issue. Creating legislation to protect victims of revenge porn is a vital step that the government must take to prevent future abuse.

For many college students, sexting is not an issue that they view as something that could bring them potential future harm.  But based on the aforementioned Pew statistics, 25 percent of people who are of a collegiate age have received “sexts” and have likely sent them too. 71 percent of Snapchat users are under 25-years-old. And while only 2 percent of college students use Snapchat to send sexts, according to Business Insider, that number still amounts to tens of thousands of racy photos, not including those sent via other mediums, like texts or private Facebook messages. Snapchat generally advertises the nature of its photos as temporary pictures that disappear after a second’s glance. For this reason, many users are oblivious to the potential privacy risks of this application. Photos may be stored on Snapchat’s servers temporarily, and there are ways for recipients to save these supposedly momentary photos. In the digital communities of modern society, it is vital that legislative safeguards are established securely to support individuals whose privacy is infringed upon.

When times are good, people often choose to share these revealing photos during the trusting peak of a romantic relationship. Unfortunately, in the aftermath of a breakup this confidence is frequently destroyed in a ruthless fashion. According to McAfee, one out of 10 ex-partners have threatened to expose scandalous pictures of their past partner on websites. The study found that about 60 percent of these threats are followed through. Preventative measures should be implemented to increase awareness and also provide more resources for victims. Currently, 80 percent of revenge porn victims will not receive protection under the Cyber Civil Right Initiative’s proposed Senate Bill 255 that excludes individuals who chose to photograph themselves. The exploitation of pictures taken under intimate circumstances should not be allowed under any conditions. Even though individuals may choose to take a risque selfie, this does not provide consent for the public distribution of their personal photos.

There is but one silver lining to the disgusting circumstances involving Kevin Bollaert and revenge porn, and that is to raise awareness for the importance of protecting victims of sexual cyber abuse. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported Attorney General Kamala Harris as saying, “Just because you’re sitting behind a computer, committing what is essentially a cowardly and criminal act, you will not be shielded from the law or jail,” in a statement released after Bollaert’s conviction. California has been the first state to prosecute for the criminal actions regarding revenge porn. If other victims are to be treated in a just and compassionate manner, this prosecution will not be the last.

 

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