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Revenge Porn in Divorce

by Debra Schoenberg

The world of divorce can be a messy and scary place and once the love is gone, it can become a nasty fight. A recent scandal involving a former U.S. House Representative’s resignation highlights a problematic issue that is not often talked about. Revenge porn is the act of sharing private or sexual photos or videos of someone, usually an ex-partner, without their consent. People who engage in this behavior do so with the intent to humiliate and threaten the victim, but what happens when the person leaking your pictures is your former spouse? Revenge porn in divorce cases is a growing issue in family law that we are seeing more often, and people should be aware of the consequences one may deal with if you engage in the act.

California Rep. Katie Hill was a freshman Democratic representative when she found herself in the midst of a political scandal. According to Business Insider, an investigation by the House Ethics Committee found that she was having an affair with her legislative director and a campaign staffer, violating House rules. She was also reported to have had a sexual relationship with her husband, who had filed for divorce earlier this year, and a consensual sexual relationship with a campaign staffer. In October, nude photos of Hill with the campaign aide were leaked, and she suggested that her estranged husband had published them without her consent. That meant that he had engaged in the act of revenge porn, which is illegal in the state of California. Not only does this affect a divorce case, but it can also affect the victim as well. In a recent op-ed for The New York Times, Hill described the emotional toll the situation brought, and how at some point she even contemplated suicide after receiving harassing messages about her body. “I didn’t leave my apartment. I felt so alone and didn’t know what to do.”

A divorce can create bitterness in an already difficult process, and sharing images as revenge porn during divorce proceedings is a modern problem to the many threatening and spiteful actions some people may choose to take. Fortunately, most states now have laws against the act, offering victims the opportunity to file criminal charges or bring a lawsuit against the person who published the content without their consent. In 2013, California became the first state to enact a penal code making it a crime to send out revenge porn, and any person who intentionally distributes the content would be found guilty of disorderly conduct offense. In addition to monetary damages, revenge porn wrongdoing can have significant impacts on divorce and child custody cases. A revenge porn conviction in criminal courts can result in large fines and jail time.

Companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Google have announced some steps they’re taking in order to combat the growing issue. According to NBC News, Facebook built a team of people to fight against the non-consensual sharing of inappropriate pictures and videos. The company, which also owns Instagram, assesses almost half a million revenge porn reports in order to quickly remove the content. Facebook also uses artificial intelligence to detect the images. In 2015, Twitter updated its rules regarding revenge porn on its platform, claiming that users may not post intimate pictures or videos without the subject’s permission. The platform also allows users to report tweets that may contain inappropriate content. The same year, Google took a stand against the issue, claiming it would honor any requests made to remove intimate pictures or videos of their search results.

Revenge porn is affecting relationships and marriages in the social media era we live in. If you’re going through a divorce and you have kids, it could impact your divorce and child custody case. Engaging in this type of behavior will have legal ramifications and should be completely avoided. Going through the divorce process can be hard on a person, and dealing with a crime this serious could cause severe turmoil between both parties.

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