It hasn’t been a good weekend. You broke up with your boyfriend who turned out to be a complete jerk. To make matters worse, your NBA team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, just lost game seven of the NBA finals.
Your smartphone vibrates and you check your text messages. The first text is from your best friend. You tap the screen and the message reads, “OMG. Check Twitter NOW!!!”
After a few more taps and swipes, what you see next makes your heart stop. You can’t believe what your ex-boyfriend just did. This dirty #$%@# just tweeted out to 125,000 people a link to a private video that he took of the two of you last week celebrating your birthday while being extremely “romantic” in his bedroom.
You didn’t want to shoot the video but things got a little crazy and it just ended up happening. You both watched it and he told you he deleted it.
Now, the entire world is watching. The video has gone viral. Someone even added the hashtags #slut and #easy to a re-tweet. You’re devastated, shocked, embarrassed and don’t know what to do.
Revenge Porn is a Huge Problem!
Unlike many celebrities who intentionally allow their sex tapes “inadvertently” get distributed on social media by “mistake” to generate publicity, your videotaped moment was private. At least you thought it was. What your ex-boyfriend did isn’t OK and now you want to know what your rights are.
Well, in California, there’s a law that helps protect people just like you from what is being referred to as “revenge porn” posted online. A law designed to hopefully deter disgruntled ex-boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses, and anyone else for that matter, from posting private pictures and videos online without the express permission of the other person.
As 38 other states have done, California has a “Revenge Porn” law codified as Penal Code 647(j)(4). This law makes revenge porn a misdemeanor. The punishment is six months in jail and a $1,000 fine with additional fines for repeat violations. [note- it is my understanding that this law is being amended to take into consideration some of the “challenges” I share below. Check with a lawyer for the latest information regarding amendments and updates].
To prove this crime, the criminal prosecutor must show that the defendant:
(1) took pictures or videos of another person’s intimate body parts, with the mutual understanding that such images will be kept confidential;
(2) distributes such images, where the victim is identifiable;
(3) has the intent to cause serious emotional distress to the victim; and,
(4) the victim actually suffers such distress. (see updates and amendments to law)