revenge porn victim

Texas woman wins largest settlement ever in revenge porn case

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Although revenge porn is currently only illegal in New Jersey and California, a recent verdict in favor of a Houston-area revenge porn victim may indicate that Texas is starting to crack down too.

ABC News affiliate KTRK reports that the woman, identified only as “Rosie,” has won $500,000 in civil court after her ex-boyfriend posted private photos, messages, and Skype conversations of her on the Internet. The verdict is the largest revenge porn settlement in U.S. history, and could very well represent a turning point in the statewide discussion over making uploading intimate photos without consent illegal.

Rosie’s relationship with her ex-boyfriend started when she was a teenager, ultimately lasting more than seven years. Because they were dating long-distance, he would often ask her to participate in steamy Skype sessions and send explicit photographs and texts of herself.

"If I ever sent him a picture, I asked him to delete it right away. And he promised me that he did," Rosie told ABC News. Of course, he didn’t: After their breakup, she found out that he had been recording the Skype calls without her knowledge during the relationship, uploading them to YouTube and other sites. "He would update me on how many people had seen it, or downloaded it,” she said. “It's humiliating.”

Because revenge porn is not a crime in Texas, the only mode of recourse for Rosie was to pursue the matter in civil court. After presenting her case in a Harris County civil court last month, Rosie won $500,000 for the emotional damages suffered as a result of her image being shared on social media sites.

While the verdict is a victory for Rosie and revenge porn victims nationwide, it doesn’t necessarily ensure that revenge porn will be criminalized in Texas immediately. Although state lawmakers are currently working on a bill that would make revenge porn illegal, critics argue that such legislation would violate the constitutional right to free speech. "If you allow the state or federal government to restrict your speech in one instance, it could expand and get more restrictive over other matters and nobody wants that," legal analyst Joel Androphy told KTRK.

Mary Anne Franks, a law professor at the University of Miami who has been active in the fight to criminalize revenge porn, says while the Houston settlement is the largest she’s ever heard of for a revenge porn case, it still isn’t enough. "Civil remedies sometimes help some victims, but the question is whether that's enough, and I think the answer is no," she told the Houston Chronicle. "What most of these victims want most is for these photos to never have been released."

But Rosie and her lawyer are hoping that the verdict will at least establish a precedent for future revenge porn legislation. At the very least, it sends a message that sharing explicit photos and images of someone without their consent won’t go unpunished. "This completely changed my life," Rosie said. "I don't want anyone to go through what I went through."

H/T KTRK | Photo by Irish Typepad/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)