I'm Starting a Website to End Revenge Porn

By Camille Standen

Technology is great for a number of reasons: helping to keep people alive, reheating noodles, accommodating the invention of apps that direct you to the nearest branch of Hollister, etc., etc. But it also has its negatives, such as advanced weaponry with horrifically inhumane results, the continuing prevalence of street-style blogs, and supporting a horrible, damaging act of humiliation that's becoming more and more widespread as more awful people realize they can use the internet to ruin people's lives: revenge porn. 

Because legislators around the country haven't caught up with the changing technology of the internet, pretty much every scorned ex who wants to degrade their ex-partner by posting intimate photos of them online is totally free to do so without any worry of legal ramifications. And those who operate websites dedicated to revenge porn cannot be held responsible for the photographs that users submit. A few states, like New Jersey—after Tyler Clementi's suicide—and Florida are introducing legislation to address what is already an awful wrinkle of our technological prowess, but for some, it's already too late.

Sarah, who can't divulge her name for safety reasons, broke up with her boyfriend and, because he's presumably an insecure, petulant douchebag, he logged into her Facebook and changed her profile photo to a naked picture of herself. When she then posted a picture of her new boyfriend to Facebook, she began to receive emails warning her that someone had uploaded more explicit photos of her to revenge-porn websites.   

Within two weeks, around 100 websites had posted her photos. A lawyer told Sarah that if she tried to sue her ex-boyfriend, she would lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bills and get nothing out of him. The police told her she was over 18 and the photos were her ex-boyfriend's property, meaning he could do what he wanted with them. The FBI said it wasn't a matter of national security and refused to help. Sarah decided to take the issue into her own hands and has started Endrevengeporn.com to campaign the issue. I called her up to hear her story.

VICE: Can you tell me about the emotional and mental process behind having to change your name?
Sarah: I wasn't in favor of it at all. I wanted to stand up against it instead of feeling like I had to hide and change everything about my identity. I felt like I was having to act like a criminal, hiding when I wasn't responsible. Yes, I took the pictures and trusted the wrong man, but he was the one doing this to me. I initially switched jobs when the photos started going viral because they were posted with my job position and office location, and I was scared of being stalked. I was basically starting over.

Has this changed the way you trust people?
It really changed the way I see men and how they see women. I was never a feminist to begin with, but now I absolutely am. I'm a smart, successful woman, and it's sad to see how women are judged, regardless of who they are, simply by how they look. I know that that's been going on for a long time, but this opened my eyes. In terms of trusting men, it was very difficult at first. I don't think you can ever fully recover because this changes you.


One of the negative responses Sarah has had to her website.

Has it affected your body image?
Yeah, when these pictures are posted strangers pick at every little imperfection they can find. Chances are you're your own worst critic and aware of those imperfections, but you don't realize that other people focus on them so much. It definitely made me insecure and I'm still struggling to get back from that.

Do you ever speak to your ex-boyfriend?
After the Facebook photo I was terrified of what he might do next. I saw what he was capable of, so I tried to keep a friendly dialogue, not that we were friends. I would just say, "Hey, hope you're well," and keep my distance but try not to do anything to piss him off because I was afraid. After more photos were posted, I've only spoken to him through lawyers.

How do you feel about people like Hunter Moore who are profiting off of this?
I think it's disgusting that people like Moore say they're taking advantage of an opportunity to make money, benefiting from a societal need. There are so many ways to make money, it doesn't have to be at the expense of others. They lack the ability to sympathize with other people and what they're going through. They just don't care for others who are hurting. To have that much hate in your heart towards strangers is sad.


Hunter Moore.

What's the reception been like since you started your site?
I've had emails from people blaming the victims, saying they shouldn't have taken the pictures and that running my site is a waste of time. But most of the contact is overwhelmingly supportive, and it's been amazing to speak to other victims. Danielle Citron is a law professor at the University of Maryland who's writing a book on cyber harassment and she calls this the beginning of a cyber civil rights movement. Another law professor from the University of Miami has been working with me to draft legislation to propose at a federal and state level across the nation.

What are the next steps you hope to take?
On a grand scale, bringing this issue to light and reaching out to more victims. I've only been contacted by about 25 victims and you can see from looking at revenge porn sites that there are a lot more out there. I want to try to prevent this from happening to individuals in the future. I think it'll be possible to change the laws—there's already one against it in New Jersey. It's now a matter of victims contacting their local legislators, making them aware of the situation and letting them know that New Jersey has a law and they need one, too.

Do you think people are too scared to speak up?
Yeah, definitely; they're terrified. They're scared to put their name out there because it will become associated with porn. Secondly, from what they may have experienced, they don't think that legislators will care, in the same way that law enforcement hasn't. I feel like my purpose is to go public and gather awareness and let victims know that, despite being turned down, legislators will listen to them. 

 @CamStanden

More from this nasty realm of the internet:

A Jailbait Loving Perv Ruined Amanda Todd's Life

Beware the Porn Trolls

We Interviewed the Most Hated Man On the Internet

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