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Alabama woman a victim of international revenge porn

An Alabama woman is the victim of international revenge porn. (WBMA)

It started with a flirtatious message from a younger man in another country, to a lonely, middle-aged woman in Alabama.

“I believe it was on Twitter,” Evelyn told the ABC 33/40 iTeam. “A message. 'Hey, how are you today? You’re really pretty.'”

We’re calling her “Evelyn” to protect her identity. We’ve disguised her voice. We’re keeping certain details private. Her cyberstalker has been quiet for now, but he could easily strike again.

Months after that initial message, he requested nude pictures of her. She sent them to him.

“He’s a young guy. I’m a middle age woman and he thinks I’m attractive? I was flattered by it,” Evelyn said.

The cyberstalker sent Evelyn’s nude photos to people in her town

But Evelyn’s online relationship became a nightmare. He threatened to release her nude photos to her friends if she didn’t send him more nude pics. The message notifications on her phone were chilling.

“Literally, my heart would beat so hard that it would beat out of my chest,” Evelyn said.

She blocked him on her social media accounts. So, he posted her nude pictures on fake Instagram pages and porn sites, which were eventually pulled down.

But, he sent the racy images to her friends, her boss, even young teenagers in her small town. She estimates 200 people saw her nude photos. She messaged him to stop.

“He told me I would die,” Evelyn said. “He was completely out of control at that point and I was a wreck.”

There’s no international law protecting revenge porn victims

Evelyn was forced to resign her job. She turned to the local police and FBI. They can’t help because her cyberstalker lives in another country. There’s no international law protecting revenge porn victims either.

Paul Kuruk is a Samford University international law professor. He said working with the U.S. State Department, and the U.S. Embassy in the suspect’s country, is key to resolving Evelyn’s problem.

“Using the country’s laws would be the best option for now because, as I’ve indicated, there isn’t a global standard you can rely on,” Kuruk said.

Challenges for victims within U.S. borders

There are even challenges for victims within U.S. borders. Thirty-eight states, including Alabama, plus Washington, D.C., have revenge porn laws. But if the suspect lives out of state, that creates jurisdictional issues.

Elisa D’Amico is an attorney in the Miami office of the K&L Gates law firm. She’s the co-founder of the firm’s Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project.

“Law enforcement says I’ll take your report here, but since the perpetrator doesn’t live here, you need to report this to the other police department in the other state. And so, then the victim calls there and is told. ‘Well, you don’t live here, so we can’t take your report,’” D’Amico said.

“I can’t put into words what a complete nightmare. The terror that you feel. It’s like nothing you can imagine.” Evelyn said.

A federal revenge porn bill was introduced on Capitol Hill last year.

If that bill becomes law, it would help resolve state jurisdictional issues because revenge porn would become a federal crime.

Offenders could face up to five years in prison.

As for an international revenge porn law—a lot of countries have to get on board for that. Don’t expect that to happen anytime soon.

How revenge porn victims can fight back

Meantime, here’s how revenge porn victims can fight back when the suspect lives in the U.S., according to the Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project.

  • Search your name on Google. You can also set up a Google alert for your name and do a reverse image search.
  • Capture screenshots of all evidence.
  • Contact local police early.
  • Ask the websites that are displaying your photos to remove them. If you took the photos, federal copyright law works in your favor.
  • You can also contact the Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project. They offer pro bono legal representation for victims of revenge porn.

Meantime, we’ll stay on top of Evelyn’s case.

We’ve reached out to the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Embassy in the cyberstalker's country.

We’ll keep you posted on new developments.


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