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***Update : April 3rd 2015***

Kevin Bollaert was found guilty back in February on 21 charges of identity theft and six charges of extortion. Despite pleas from his defense counsel for leniency, the judge sentenced Bollaert to 18 years in prison, and ordered to pay $10,000 restitution to his victims. It’s being called “an historic ruling” by legal commentators, as it is the largest sentence ever imposed in the entire United States for the crime of revenge porn. According to legal blogger Adam Steinbaugh, the prosecution also asked for Bollaert to be permanently barred from ever using the Internet again. It is unclear at this time whether or not the judge has made a ruling on this request.

We’ve all been there and done that. We are in a close relationship with someone, and during a moment of sexual passion, a camera is produced. Risque photos are taken, with the assurance they will never be shown to anyone else.

This happened in the case of Annmarie Chiarini, whose ex-boyfriend drove her to the brink of suicide, after he was told his jealousy had destroyed their relationship. He started an eBay auction with a CD of naked images of Annmarie, and later put her on a revenge porn website.

Or take the case of Ryan Seay (yes, a man), who claims to be the victim of false revenge porn allegations. His ex-girlfriend, Holly Jacobs, claims that he has been posting explicit images of her online, a claim he strongly denies.

“She has been bullying me for the past year,” he told the Miami NewTimes. “Holly is guilty of the exact same thing that she is accusing me of: taking these pics, splashing them internationally, and attaching my name to them. She has ruined my life.”

You only have to type in the term “revenge porn victim” into Google to see the endless list of victims to this crime (and a lot of places don’t even consider it a crime yet). Consider the cases of Hannah Thompson, and Emma Holten. Hannah has campaigned for the UK to make revenge porn a crime, and Emma went even further by releasing her own nude images (NSFW) to take back control of her own body.

In perhaps the most famous case of them all, Kayla Laws had nude pictures of herself distributed online. In other circumstances, she would have become just another statistic, but her mother decided otherwise. Dr Charlotte Laws made it her personal mission in life to have the images taken down, make revenge porn a crime, and then have the owner of the site, Hunter Moore, arrested and convicted.

Revenge porn is very real, it destroys lives, and finally, thanks to people like Dr Laws, the law is starting to recognize it as a crime. Which is why California recently made history by convicting San Diego resident Kevin Bollaert on 27 counts of felony theft and extortion, related to his revenge porn website. He is now facing up to 23 years in prison, when he is sentenced on April 3rd.

Beware The Jilted Lover With The Compromising Pics

Sending the pictures to a porn site either happens after a relationship breakup, or after an online hack. Remember the celebrity nude photo hack on iCloud last year, where the whole world got to see Jennifer Lawrence, as well as many other prominent women, without any clothes on?

The photos are often accompanied by the woman’s name, perhaps her address and phone number, links to social media accounts, maybe even where she works. She can say goodbye to her privacy, and mentally unstable people may start to harass her, potentially putting her life in danger.

But how exactly can this be classed as a crime? Which law can we file this under? This was the problem initially. It could be argued that it was a civil matter, but victims obviously wanted more to be done than a fine and a slap on the wrist.

So How Is It Now a Crime?

Kevin Bollaert was posting the images to one site and operating another site at the same time, charging victims as much as $350 to have the images removed. That got him on extortion charges (because of course the women were going to pay to get the images removed). The prosecutor also charged him with identity theft for each person on the site.

Then there’s the money made from the site. Bollaert was making approximately $900 a month in advertising, and a total of $30,000 in extortion money, for the photos to be removed.

If any of the females are underage then the site owner would be charged with child pornography.

The Cyber Civil Rights Initiative considers the whole concept of revenge porn as sexual abuse. Whether or not someone would be prosecuted for that though is another matter.

But once the person is convicted in a criminal court, then the civil lawsuit can begin – meaning monetary compensation. At the very least, you can claim copyright infringement and demand removal of the photos under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. At most, you can have the site shut down and bankrupt him for life.

Is Bollaert The Only Real Big Player In All This?

Bollaert is not the first to be caught in the revenge porn racket. The most well-known “celebrity” in the arena is a serial revenge porn offender named Hunter Moore (mentioned in the introduction), who was arrested under a law called the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). He stands accused of hacking, and is currently awaiting trial. Moore operated several websites, the first in 2010, but all of them are now thankfully inoperative. While he is awaiting trial, Moore has to abide by a total Internet ban, as well as aid investigators in shutting down all of his online accounts.

Moore’s nemesis is the aforementioned Dr Charlotte Laws, who went after him, after he posted photos of Dr Laws’ daughter Kayla on his website. According to her Twitter account, his sentencing is imminent, and he could be facing 7 years in prison.

Dr Laws has always been very vocal and direct, regarding her feelings about Moore.

Moore maintained that his victims were sluts, asked to be abused and deserved to lose their jobs, embarrass their families and find themselves forever ruined. Below photos on the site, his followers posted crude and mysogynistic remarks. Victims were taunted as “fat cows,” “creatures with nasty teeth,” “ugly whores,” “white trash sluts” and “whales.” One commenter said, “Jesus, someone call Greenpeace and get her back in the water.” The website was not about pornography; it was about ridiculing and hurting others.

Another offender is Craig Brittain, who operated a site called “Is Anybody Down”. He has now removed the photos, and posted an apology on the site.

In the UK, a 14 year old boy became the youngest in Britain to be convicted of revenge porn, after he sold pictures of his ex-girlfriend to others, for 10 pounds each ($15).

So There’s No Place To Hide Then?

Not exactly. In the United States, only 16 states have revenge porn laws (out of a total of 50 states). That is not exactly overwhelming. According to the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, Illinois is the state to beat in this area. As well as nudity, the Illinois law also applies if the woman is fully clothed and performing a sexual act. Illinois also imposes jail time for the offender, and restitution for the victim.

In California, where Kevin Bollaert was convicted, the state Attorney-General, Kamala Harris, has made it her priority to prosecute revenge porn cases.

In January 2014, Israel was the first non-US country to classify revenge porn as a sex crime. Offenders can get up to 5 years in prison. The European Union has strict privacy laws that would cover revenge porn. Other countries however, such as Canada and the UK, are coming up against opposition to government attempts to pass revenge porn legislation.

What Are The Effects Of Revenge Porn?

Complete and total devastation of the victim’s life. Comments are left with their photos on the site, which are often threats of rape and violence. The woman’s contact details (personal and work) are also often revealed. This means that their boss soon finds out, and being fired is a distinct possibility. Knowing where the person lives can result in offline stalking, which can have its own deadly consequences. Family are humiliated and can often lead to the victim being disowned. New partners can be horrified and end the relationship. The woman’s health can and will deteriorate, and suicide may be seriously considered. Only a few victims are brave enough to fight back.

What Can Be Done To Improve The Situation?

It’s easy to preach about how a woman shouldn’t put herself in these situations by making the photos in the first place. But when you are in love, and you trust your partner, you don’t think too far into the future and think about the consequences. But women should think worst case scenario and at least judge the health of her relationship first. Are you doing the photos to prop up a failing relationship? If so, it may not be a good idea to have those pictures “out there”.

It would also help if more US states, and countries adopted strict revenge porn laws, along the lines of the Illinois model. Only strict deterrence is going to stop revenge porn site operators.

Now it’s your turn to offer your opinion on the subject. Short of stripping them naked, covering them in tomato ketchup, and letting the dogs loose on them, what would you say should happen to a revenge porn site operator? What would be the appropriate punishment?

Image Credit : Bbusinessman in rage Via Shutterstock, Shocked Businesswoman – Shutterstock

  1. putrid revenge porn mutts of society
    October 14, 2016 at 9:14 am

    I like how there are men reading this and thinking its unjust . Throw the perverted pieces of crap in jail for 20 years . Good riddens to the filthy crap in society .

    Loser desperate boys that only dream of being men .Any man that goes on them sites views it and sees contact details of women and doesnt report it . Is less than a man . Putrid

  2. Tony
    March 8, 2015 at 7:05 am

    I did not read your article because unless she died, which she didn't there is nothing that justifies 20 years in prison. People are doing less than 10 years for murder, there is your standard. That being said because some dumbass regrets spreading her legs (I guess or his) now someone should lose 20 years of there life.. Stop with the b.s. p.c., again, I did not read the article, but if people get less than 10 years for taking someones life than how can you possibly rationalize 20 because someone got embarrassed. I have been married for 17 years and if I was to get divorced tomorrow I could not do this to my wife, because never has she spread her legs for the camera, nor have I ever even thought of asking.

    Come on feminists let me hear your BS.....

    • Mark O'Neill
      March 8, 2015 at 2:17 pm

      People who are doing 10 years or less for killing someone will have been convicted of manslaughter, not murder, and there is a huge difference. Manslaughter is the accidental killing of someone, murder is pre-meditated. People convicted of murder either get death row or 25 years to life.

      Now can revenge porn be compared to accidentally killing someone? It depends on your viewpoint. I agree that 20 years is probably a bit excessive, but most probably the appeals court will reduce that sentence. But since you say several times you haven't read the article, how can you possibly have read the devastating effects on a woman's life when these photos are taken?

      Are the women wrong to do it? Perhaps. But they could also have been taken without their knowledge. Or perhaps they felt secure in their relationship and trusted the guy?

      And when the photos are out, and their home address is published with it, they lose their job, their reputation, perhaps even their family. So in effect, the person who has committed revenge porn has taken the woman's life away.

      Thin? BS? I'm sure you'll think so. But it isn't you bent over on all fours, committing a sexual act, so it's easy to be dismissive and brush it aside. People make mistakes all the time - that's only human. Let's not judge them and make it worse.

  3. RAnn
    March 6, 2015 at 12:25 am

    We've done it??? No, we haven't. I love and trust my husband, but who knows who could gain access to them (kids surfing around the computer, the person who finds his phone....

    • Mark O'Neill
      March 7, 2015 at 11:16 am

      That's why God invented USB sticks and encryption :-)

  4. Ant Lord
    March 5, 2015 at 8:08 pm

    You censored side-boob?

    • Mark O'Neill
      March 7, 2015 at 11:15 am

      This is a family-friendly website, so we can't have any hint of things like breasts. I mean, what will we tell the children?! :-)

  5. Klibaner
    March 5, 2015 at 7:32 am

    I definitely think you have a good point about going after those who post them. After all these Ex's are actually involved in a form of domestic violence. In that they are punishing their Ex's for having the audacity to not do what they want them to do. Really if their are no fear of consequences this could be a good way for abusers in relationships to control their patterns, and one you can't get a restraining order for. Not to mention that an Ex willing to do something like this could be really dangerous.
    I volunteer for a domestic violence group, and they say, besides the physical abuse, signs of a particularly dangerous abuse also come from him using psychological techniques. Like spreading roomers about her to try and impeded her credibility. Meaning that some of these Ex's might take the next step to doing something drastic so punishing them for hard sentences could sever as a safe guard to their victims.
    Also like the article says putting the videos out their is another safety issue. The type of people who go to these sites, are going to be pretty twisted frankly. And many will take the women having their photos posted without their consent, as her somehow inviting them. You ready what one the guys said, were he claimed the women deserved to have their lives ruined. These type of people might easily find it justifiable to take the harassment into the really world. Meaning you need to target these site operators hard. Meaning posting these things on line, and distributing their information is more than just a small prank. It is serious and everything should be done to put the fear of god into people who might do it.

  6. Alan
    March 5, 2015 at 3:55 am

    While these site owners are odious and deserve punishment, I am not sure that targeting them and not the people hurtful enough to post the pictures is a long term solution. Sites will just migrate to jurisdictions without those laws. The Ex's, who likely live in the same country as the victims, are the one's posting so many damaging personal details. They must be convicted in a nice, public way, to stay the hands of others. Also, I have no idea who is advertising on those sites but surely that income stream can be stopped.

    • dragonmount
      March 5, 2015 at 1:16 pm

      "They must be convicted in a nice, public way, to stay the hands of others."
      Should we also bring back public executions as a deterent? :-)

    • Mark O'Neill
      March 7, 2015 at 11:18 am

      Dragonmount : I think you're being a bit melodramatic!! I'm sure Alan only meant that the men had to have their clothes taken off, photographs made of them in every position, then those photos placed on a revenge website for all the women in the world to laugh at and make crude comments about.

      Right, Alan? :-)

  7. WinDork
    March 4, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    Of course the males are going to accuse you of being dramatic, Mark. They are just jealous that no one cares to see them naked on the Internet. ;)

    • Mark O'Neill
      March 4, 2015 at 7:55 pm

      The cavalry has arrived to save me! :-)

  8. Sam
    March 4, 2015 at 4:57 pm

    Brilliant banner image though :-D

    • Mark O'Neill
      March 4, 2015 at 5:26 pm

      Yes, I wasn't involved in that aspect of the article, so it is quite amusing to see it for the first time :-) Azamat (our graphics designer) really knows his stuff.

    • Justin Pot
      March 6, 2015 at 3:30 pm

      I kept waiting for it to load...

  9. Sam
    March 4, 2015 at 4:24 pm

    "Complete and total devastation of the victim’s life."

    You should write for a tabloid.

    • Mark O'Neill
      March 4, 2015 at 5:24 pm

      So what would you call it then? A minor hiccup in their life?

  10. David
    March 4, 2015 at 3:08 pm

    "We’ve all been there and done that."

    Uh, no.

    • Mark O'Neill
      March 4, 2015 at 5:22 pm

      No? Maybe you should then :-)

    • Lynda
      March 4, 2015 at 10:24 pm

      Uh, no. And for this very reason.

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