Since retiring from law, Noah Kovacs has enjoyed himself blogging about small business law, legal marketing, and anything else legal, criminal or civil. He recently purchased his first cabin and spends his free time remodeling its kitchen for his family. Twitter: @NoahKovacs
So what are your options if a relationship with someone you loved and trusted dissolves in break up or divorce and your ex-partner threatens to distribute private photos of you?
Before the internet distributing private, compromising images of someone wasn’t incredibly complex but it still usually required making physical copies. Many photo developers wouldn’t even allow the copying or developing of any explicit pictures. Once made, those photos had to be physically delivered somewhere. Nowadays, virtually anyone with a phone in their pocket can snap an intimate digital photo of their partner and upload it to the ‘net where hundreds, thousands and even millions of people can access it (including members of that person’s family), all in a couple minutes. If it even takes that long.
Trust but Be Smart
So what are your options if a relationship with someone you loved and trusted dissolves in break up or divorce and your ex-partner threatens to distribute private photos of you?It depends on the situation but there are definitely a few steps anyone can take. The first step, of course, would be discretion. You really never want another person to gain power over you by having compromising images of you in their possession. While trust is an integral part of any good relationship, remember that the best-seeming and most passionate romances are the ones in which emotions become most charged if they don’t work out.
Don’t Send or Provide Private Pics and Maintain Control of Those That Exist
Be sure that you have access to every image of you that would embarrass you if released. Based on the slew of… “accidentally” released celebrity sex tapes, apparently pictures and videos never meant to leave captivity find themselves available for public viewing fairly often. Although those “accidents” may not be the best example.And never send nude or otherwise compromising shots of yourself over the phone or net to someone you are attracted to, or anyone you don’t foresee spoiling your grandchildren with you someday. Seriously.
You shouldn’t even necessarily send intimate digital shots to a person you love and trust entirely. Everything digital that’s transmitted lives in cyberspace and cyberspace has no true walls. More than 80% of divorce lawyers admit to combing through social media sites for anything damning. So if you have anything posted online, even privately, that you wouldn’t want an angry ex and/or a stranger using against you- get rid of them.
The Threat is Made – Minors
If, however, you find yourself being blackmailed or threatened with photos, sometimes there’s not a lot you can do legally. However, if minors are involved in any way, your position is strengthened considerably. If any of the pictures were taken when you were underage, explain to the person threatening you that you will have them charged with distribution of child pornography if a single shot is shown to another person. You might suggest that you’re considering charging them with child pornography for even having pictures of a naked minor- pictures that they’re now using for blackmail and coercion- if those pics are returned to you immediately.
If the threat includes the possibility of anyone underage seeing those photos, like your children, make it clear that you will press charges for any number of crimes involving sharing sexual images with a minor. If the threat involves releasing those photos on the web, any child could see them there- reiterate your ambition to press distribution of child pornography charges for that.Should photos of a minor be emailed across state lines, or should any compromising images be emailed to a minor across state lines, the person who did so is now in a world of hurt- federal hurt. Remind them how life is in prison for those busted on child pornography charges.
Pornography Charges and Defamation Lawsuits – Throw the Book
If minors aren’t a factor, there can be less legal recourse, but some still remains. Should it come down to it, explain to an ex that if they disseminate private photos of you without your permission you will seek legal recourse. Not only will you insist charges be brought for distribution of pornography, you will throw in a defamation lawsuit. On top of that, you’ll press charges for “public disclosure of private facts”. Maybe add that you’ll toss in charges of blackmail and coercion.
If They Have Already Been Distributed
Should the worst happen and an ex does release intimate or embarrassing images of you- look into taking legal action like that listed above. Also, depending on the situation, as awful and embarrassing as that sort of public disclosure is, the fact remains that a lot of people have done things they now regret. The taking and sharing of intimate photos with a significant other is also hardly rare.
Most people will have some level of empathy if not sympathy for your situation. In most cases, when someone so totally betrays the trust and dignity of an ex by distributing compromising private images taken with the expectation of privacy, it’s the person sharing the photos rather than the person in them that comes off looking like an awful, petty bully. Tell your lawyer about the threat and discuss bringing up to a divorce court judge or another arbitrator that your ex is now blackmailing you with threats to release private photos.
If images of you do surface and you find yourself compelled to explain them, tell the truth.Those were shot by someone you trusted, at the time, not to be despicable enough to release them. If there’s something legally compromising in the photos (underage drinking, marijuana smoking, etc.), acknowledge that you made a stupid mistake, one not to be repeated and one you have learned from. However, the bottom line is: this is definitely a situation where an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. Keep private images as private as you possibly can.