Sexual Abuse - Plaintiff Law

Can I Sue for Revenge Porn?

This content contains sensitive subject matter related to sexual abuse.

Some people feel comfortable sharing intimate photos or videos with a partner. But it can be devastating if that person violates your trust by sharing intimate images online or posting them on social media. Sharing nonconsensual pornography is not only a breach of trust; it is a crime.

Revenge porn victims may be able to take the perpetrator to court, to hold them responsible and get financial compensation through a lawsuit. If you want to know more about what legal actions you can take after a revenge porn incident, talk to a local sexual abuse attorney for help.

What Is Revenge Porn?

Revenge porn refers to nonconsensual pornography. This could include intimate images taken with consent but later distributed without the person’s consent. Revenge porn could also include explicit images taken without the victim’s knowledge.

Depending on the state, unlawful dissemination can include sexual images, intimate images, explicit images, or someone engaging in sexual acts where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, with the intent to cause financial, physical, or emotional harm.

According to the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, approximately one in eight social media users in the U.S. are the “targets” of revenge porn. Some victims are even pressured to send more intimate images or their photos will be shared with family or friends.

Can You Sue for Revenge Porn in Civil Court?

There are different causes of action for victims of revenge porn in civil court. Some states have civil laws that allow victims of revenge porn to seek compensatory damages. But, victims in other states may also be able to file a civil lawsuit for:

  • Intentional infliction of emotional distress
  • Invasion of privacy
  • Defamation
  • Copyright infringement

There may be other civil options available in other states. Talk to a local sexual abuse attorney to understand your rights to hold others accountable.

State Revenge Porn Laws

Some states have specific laws to allow for a private cause of action against the person who shared the private images. For example, in Colorado, victims of revenge porn can seek monetary damages of $10,000 or the actual damages and attorney fees. But not all states have civil revenge porn laws.

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

Intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) is a civil wrong where someone intentionally causes another person to suffer severe emotional distress. In a revenge porn claim for IIED, the victim must show they suffered severe emotional distress because someone disseminated private sexual images.

How Are Civil and Criminal Cases Different With Revenge Porn?

Revenge porn is a crime in most states, as a misdemeanor or felony. As a criminal case, the police and law enforcement can investigate and refer the case to the prosecutor. The state will prosecute the case against the perpetrator for criminal charges. If found guilty, the defendant can face sentencing, including fines and jail time.

When a victim of revenge porn files a civil lawsuit, the case is handled in civil court. If the victim wins, they may be awarded monetary damages for their losses.

The burden of proof is higher for criminal cases than for civil claims. In criminal law, the prosecutor has to show the defendant is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In a civil case, the plaintiff has to show that the defendant is liable “by a preponderance of the evidence.” That means they only have to show that they are likely liable.

Because the burden is lower for civil cases, someone could be found liable for revenge porn in civil court even if they were found not guilty in a criminal case.

What Damages are Available in a Revenge Porn Case?

Damages refer to the financial compensation in a civil lawsuit. The plaintiff is seeking monetary damages to compensate them for their losses. Damages can include compensatory economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages. Some types of damages available in a revenge porn case could include:

  • Harm to reputation
  • Lost income
  • Emotional distress
  • Medical expenses, including mental health care
  • Pain and suffering

If you want to know more about how you can recover damages in a revenge porn lawsuit, talk to a sexual abuse lawyer for legal advice.

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