Revenge is a Dish Best Not Served

Socialmedia-pmAt LauraLaw, we tend to stick to legal news instead of pop culture, but sometimes the two intersect. A few days ago, Robert Kardashian (son of the late Robert Kardashian, Sr., who once represented OJ Simpson) posted nude photographs and explicit images of his ex-fiancé, Blac Chyna, on his Instagram account. The photos were posted without Blac Chyna’s consent to the posting. Instagram eventually removed the images and blocked Kardashian’s account; however, the damage was already done.

At first glance, this appears to be an argument between two feuding exes, but it actually implicates so much more. Although he has not been charged, Kardashian’s actions could constitute “nonconsensual pornography” in the eyes of California law. Nonconsensual pornography, or “revenge porn” as it is commonly called, is a misdemeanor under California Penal Code 647(j)(4). The statute states that, “A person who intentionally distributes the image of the intimate body part or parts of another identifiable person, or an image of the person depicted engaged in an act of sexual intercourse . . . in which the person depicted participates under circumstances in which the persons agree or understand that the image shall remain private, the person distributing the image knows or should know that distribution of the image will cause serious emotional distress, and the person depicted suffers that distress” is guilty of a misdemeanor. In this case, Kardashian posted photographs of intimate body parts of Blac Chyna that she sent to him while they were in a relationship, and were supposed to remain private.

The California nonconsensual pornography law went in to effect to protect victims from this kind of online harassment. Before this law, victims of actions like Kardashian’s had no recourse for having their incredibly private photographs and images displayed across social media. Now, other states have followed California’s lead and enacted similar laws to protect privacy.

In Illinois, posting revenge porn is a Class 4 felony, punishable by one to three years in prison, restitution, fines of up to $25,000, and costs. 720 ILCS 5/11-23.5 addresses non-consensual dissemination of private sexual images, describing it as the intentional dissemination or an image of another person “(A) who is at least 18 years old; (B) who is identifiable from the image itself or information displayed in connection with the image; and (C) who is engaged in a sexual act or whose intimate parts are exposed, in whole or in part. The statute also criminalizes obtaining the image under circumstances in which a reasonable person would know or understand that the image was to remain private and knows, or should have known that the image was to remain private.”

In this author’s opinion, the bottom line is this: A consenting adult who chooses to share a private sexual image of themselves with another consenting adult should be able to protect those images from public dissemination, and breaching that privacy should be criminalized. It can be humiliating and traumatizing to see such private photographs displayed for public consumption, and especially embarrassing when that public includes family members, friends, colleagues, and employers.

Non-consensual dissemination of private sexual images is a crime, whether the image is shared with a group of friends or 2 million Instagram followers. If you, a friend, or family member find yourself on either side of this situation, contact us at LauraLaw to discuss your legal options.

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