Breakups are never pleasant to go through and yet some people take them worse than others. Individuals with deep-seated emotional or psychological issues cannot let go of a partner and even after breaking up, they somehow want to get even with a former lover. Unfortunately this kind of distorted vengeance is even more dangerous because of the intimate nature of the former relationship. One of the most common manifestations is an ex threatening to post private pictures online. If you too find yourself at the receiving end of such heinous acts, here are some tips on how to act.
TIP: Read the guide to prevent a break up or get back with your ex.
Don’t let it get you
Using private information and private matters to harm a person’s reputation through public humiliation and harassment is a growing tactic in online harassment by ex partners who because of their own issues are unable to let go of a relationship. This problem may vary in severity and context – for instance a guy who seemed great to hang out with earlier, reveals a nefarious side of this personality when he takes a breakup badly and threatens to post photos or videos of some of the most intimate scenes from your relationship online. However your predicament may also be a form of absue – suppose you were in an abusive relationship and your ex-boyfriend – sometimes surreptitiously and sometimes using threats or coercion – took photos of you in a state of undress and of a sexual nature Now, years later, that ex continues the cycle of abuse by threatening to publish those photos if you do something to anger the ex. Though the effect of both situations are likely to be devastating for you, in the latter case this anxiety is part of a larger cycle of emotional and psychological violence and warrants professional help.
No matter what the specifics of your situation, always bear in mind that you are not to blame. Once you are placed in this torturous situation, you may keep kicking yourself mentally as to why you trusted this guy, or let your guard down or get intimate with him. Recognize for once and all, that there is no way you could have known about what his future intentions or actions would be. And even if there was a hint about his untrustworthy nature, that does not mean you deserve this kind of humiliation. Consent to a nude image being taken does not imply consent to its distribution. Always remember that as a citizen of a civil society you have a right to the protection of your own good name based on the fundamental concept of the essential dignity and worth of every human being.
There is the law
When you first receive threats about your private images being leaked online, you may be tempted to reason with your ex or even give in to his demands, like going out on another date with him or sleeping with him once more. Recognize that this kind of blackmail is a form of emotional abuse and is never going to stop if you keep giving in to him. Your best recourse is seeking the help of law to put an end to this kind of harassment. Almost all states in the US have passed laws protecting the privacy of an individual and violators can face different terms of imprisonment, hefty fines or both. In New Jersey for instance the crime of transmitting images or videos without someone’s consent falls under the state’s invasion of privacy statute created in 2004, and violators can face between three and five years in prison1. The statute prohibits the posting of an image of a person engaged in sexual contact or a photo of a person’s private parts without their permission. And in fact according to the law, the sharing of the photo or video with just one person is as much of a crime as posting it to the world wide. And even if your state does not have a specific statute to punish online distribution of content without consent, many statutes on the books elsewhere could cover such a crime, including lewdness, disseminating obscene materials and indecent exposure.
Not many women seek legal help till the time they have been pushed too far and fear for their phsycial safety. Sometimes this is because legal action is often out of reach due to lack of education regarding the law and the economic barriers to accessing courts. And sometimes victims may fear filing a lawsuit in a public forum because that may cause further humiliation. But you need to understand that nothing other than the fear of law or legal action will prevent your ex from going ahead with his abusive plan.
What you can do
Call the police immediately because they can get images taken down faster, lessening the chances of propagation. In all sorts of internet crimes, time is of the essence; you need to act somewhat fast to prevent information from spreading like a virus. The quicker you get to law enforcement, the quicker they can assist you and maybe even nab the culprit.
Once you have got the law enforcement agencies in the loop, you can also send letters or emails to the website asking that the images be taken down. Unfortunately though you can get your images taken off websites, they never truly are erased. Even then you can explore the possibility of hiring an online reputation cleanup site to help lessen the image’s presence in search results.
Finally consult a lawyer about filing suit against the ex. This will not only help you recoup money spent to clean up an online reputation or recover damages but will also force the website to take the image down more promptly. However many women have reservations about filing a suit publicly. They feel - and rightly too - that such a step would make the humiliation complete by revealing the victim’s identity, and attracting a potential barrage of internet news sources and postings geared toward examining the minutiae of any readily available scandal. If this is your concern too, then there is a provision in law for filing a case under a pseudonym. This simply means that you will be able to proceed in a case without revealing your true name in the public record. This procedure has existed for many years in federal and state courts in the United States. For example, perhaps one of the most famous pseudonymous cases is Roe v. Wade, where the plaintiff challenging the abortion laws was protected from disclosure in the pleadings because of the privacy-sensitive nature of her case2. Unfortunately the process of filing a suit under a pseudonym is rather complex and the fact that different states have their own laws, makes the entire exercise even more difficult. If you wish to file a suit under a pseudonym, it is best you consult a legal expert who has some experience in the relevant areas of invasion of privacy.
Blackmail in intimate relationships is not a new phenomenon – in the past there have been jilted or disgruntled lovers sending intimate letters and photos out of spite or revenge. What has made the contemporary trend truly scary is that with just a click of one button, private photos are out in the internet for the entire world to see. The scale of the impact is immense since the crime has lifelong implications for the victim as the image is copied by others and proliferates elsewhere on the internet. Thus if you are facing such threats, it is time to take matters in your own hand and approach the law.