revenge porn warning

NY Issues Warning of Rising Threat of Revenge Porn During Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic

New York's Attorney General issued a warning Wednesday about the rising threat of revenge porn during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, calling it "a vicious form of humiliation and control."

Although revenge porn was a problem prior to COVID-19, recent reports suggest such cases have skyrocketed given that the pandemic has increased the amount of time people spend on social media sites and has led people to use technology more often in order to communicate. These reports show that revenge porn overwhelmingly impact women, who make up 90 percent of revenge porn targets, the state says.

"As New Yorkers practice social distancing in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) public health crisis, an increased number of individuals are engaging in intimate conversations with distanced partners with webcams and video chat apps, or are meeting new partners online and dating virtually," New York Attorney General Letitia James' office said in a press release.

Since many parts of the country, including New York, issued stay-at-home orders in March, dating sites have seen an increase in the number of messages sent -- with some video chat apps reporting an increase in usage of over 70 percent, according to James' office. These chats have also come with an increase in intimate images shared -- images that were originally intended for a single partner, but are often screenshot or recorded using a second device and shared with others, published or used to coerce.

“Revenge porn is a vicious form of humiliation and control that disproportionately affects women, and we will continue to fight this cruel form of degradation in New York state,” James said in a statement. “As New Yorkers continue to social distance during the coronavirus pandemic, we urge all who are sharing intimate and private pictures to follow these tips to protect themselves. We also warn anyone thinking of sharing revenge porn and exploiting their partners to think twice, as we will work with local law enforcement to prosecute all individuals engaging in the illegal act to the fullest extent of the law.”

Last year, the state of New York passed a law that criminalized revenge porn. The law established criminal penalties of up to a year in jail and civil damages for abusers, while also empowering victims to seek a court order to remove these images from the web.

Since revenge porn is a form of abuse, there are several organizations that provide survivors of violence or who have been threatened by intimate partners with services. One such organization is, Sanctuary for Families, which provides support to survivors of intimate partner violence. Survivors can access this service, and more, by contacting Sanctuary for Family’s free legal helpline at 212-349-6009, ext. 246.

A Long Island man accused of an online “sextortion” plot that victimized more than 30 women has pleaded guilty to stalking as a violent offense and scheme to defraud, authorities announced Friday. Pei-Sze Cheng reports.

“Shelter-in-place orders have meant more time at home, more time online, and, unfortunately, more instances of abuse by way of technology, including cyber sexual abuse,” Judy Harris Kluger, executive director of Sanctuary for Families, said in a statement. “These are extremely dangerous and isolating times for anyone experiencing gender-based violence. Especially during COVID-19, it is critical that all are able to safely navigate this ever-expanding virtual world.”

Another organization committed to helping New Yorkers is Safe Horizon Domestic Violence Law Project (DVLP), which provides legal services to survivors of intimate partner violence. DVLP is available to provide telephone legal consultations via their hotline at 718-834-7430, ext. 1101.

“As many of us have learned in 2020, our computers and mobile devices have become essential tools for navigating both on and offline relationships,” Stella K. Hirsch, a staff attorney at Safe Horizon, said in a statement. “The exponential rise we have seen in revenge porn and other forms of online harassment during the COVID-19 pandemic are saddening and have increased demand for our services.”

The state shared a number of tips with the hopes of protecting New Yorkers from falling victim to revenge porn or other invasions of privacy. The tips include:

  • Do not include identifying details in any intimate image or chat, such as your face, unique tattoo, or birthmark;
  • Use dating apps or websites that have safety features, such as warning you if a recipient has taken a screenshot of an image; having an "unsend" option for pictures or messages; and allowing you to delete images from a recipient's messages.

Copyright NBC New York
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