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Police: 'Revenge porn' not illegal under state statutes

By Margo Spann, mspann@wisctv.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 02:12:52 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 07 2013 01:22:14 PM CST

MADISON, Wis. -

A bad breakup turned into online humiliation for a woman after her ex-boyfriend posted nude pictures of her online.

Online retaliation like this has been nicknamed "revenge porn,” and a Janesville woman talked with News3 about her experience.

The 23-year-old woman said she's hoping others will hear her story and her simple message: "Don't do it."

Police say under current laws, the man legally obtained and distributed the pictures.

"She took the photos herself. She gave them to him, and he had them legally," Lt. Keith Lawver, with the Janesville Police Department, said.

The woman contacted police after she said her ex-boyfriend posted nude pictures of her online, but police said there is nothing illegal about that in Wisconsin.

"There's not a violation of Wisconsin statutes, so people really need to be cognizant of the things they're doing ahead of time. They need to think about what they're doing and know if this relationship sours, those photos can be posted for the world to view, and it's not illegal," Lawver said.

The woman told WISC-TV the two dated about a year, and over the course of their relationship, she sent him seven topless pictures of herself.

According to the police report, the Illinois man was upset over a pair of earrings he wanted to get back from her. When he didn't get them, he posted her pictures on his two Facebook pages last month.

Police said the law hasn't caught up with technology.

"People are allowed to take nude photos of themselves and send them to their boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, whoever they wish. They just need to know those photos; whoever they're given to can post them online,” Lawver said.

Rep. John Spiros, R-Marshfield, said revenge porn is a problem, and he wants to make the offense a misdemeanor with a penalty of nine months in jail, a $10,000 fine or both.

"A number of people have committed suicide, have lost their jobs, we had one individual from Texas who contacted us. That person had to change their name for a job," Spiros said. "Basically the bill says that even though, at one point, somebody might have consented to you, you don't have the right to put that nude or sexually explicit picture out for other people unless that person actually consents to that."

The woman reached out to Facebook officials, and the pictures were taken down about two hours later, but she said the damage had already been done.

Revenge porn is already against the law in California and New Jersey. Spiros said the bill has bipartisan support.

There's a votes scheduled Thursday morning at 10:30 at the Capitol.

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