A woman who only wants to be known as Sheila remembers the shock when she saw private, explicit images of herself all over the Internet.
“Those were private images from a previous relationship. I sent them to an individual willingly,” she told NBC 4 New York.
But those images got into the wrong hands and were posted to lewd websites in the U.S., and then exponentially posted across the world. Each day since, Sheila has received dirty messages and propositions from people in countries she has never visited.
Sheila is one of a growing number of people who find themselves victim of so-called revenge porn: the sharing or posting of sexually graphic images of people without their consent.
"It can destroy somebody’s reputation, it can destroy their family, it can destroy their career," said Sheila’s attorney and John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor Adam Wandt. "All of the victims that have come to me, 100 percent of them, it’s been done out of spite."
Even though Sheila says she knows who got a hold of the photos, there was little she could do. While New York state says it has a revenge porn law on the books, the I-Team has learned it doesn't protect people like Sheila, who consented to taking the photos -- even if the photos turn up in places she'd never want them to.
Assemblyman Eduard Braunstein of Bayside, Queens, says the current law, passed in 2014, only protects a victim if the photos or video were taken without the victim's permission. He's introduced a bill that would make what happened to Sheila a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison.
"It's very common for people to send tens to hundreds of pictures a day... and more and more people are going to be sending these pictures," said Braunstein.
Sheila has been successful at getting American websites to remove the images by citing copyright laws, but has had no luck with international sites that don't adhere to the same rules.
"It’s an ongoing battle because when you take down one site, something else resurfaces. And how do you live with the fact that somebody has your photos and videos and at any point in time they can be replicated elsewhere? It's distressing," she said.
In the U.S., 35 states and Washington, D.C. have substantive revenge porn laws on the books. Braunstein introduced his revenge porn bill this year but it was quashed.
"I think the biggest issue is a lot of my colleagues don't know how big of an issue this is," he said.