The Grapevine

'Revenge Porn' Mogul, Kevin Bollaert, Faces 20 Years In Jail; Victims Face Lifetime Of Trauma

revenge porn
As revenge porn is becoming more recognized as a crime, we wonder what becomes of its victims. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

This week, Kevin Bollaert, once owner of a popular “revenge porn” website, was convicted of more than two dozen felony charges, including theft and extortion, Sky News reported. The 28-year-old made his living by running a now shutdown website where individuals could post explicit images, names, and hometowns of their ex-lovers without their consent. Bollaert also owned a second website where the revenge-porn victims could pay upward of $350 to have their images removed. He now faces up to 20 years in prison for his crimes, but some argue that's only a fraction of the punishment his victims have had to endure.

Technology has significantly advanced the porn industry, making what was once restricted to back corner video shops now readily available. But, regardless of your stance on the porn industry, the truth remains that (for the most part) it’s completely legal. Revenge porn is similar to what you may find produced by major porn companies with only one difference: The “models” have not consented to the distribution of their nude images on the Internet. The distribution of “revenge porn” is completely legal in 48 states, protected under a person's First Amendment rights, USA Today reported. However, recent court cases, including Bollaert’s, have suggested that the act may soon be on its way to becoming a crime.

How Prevalent Is Revenge Porn?

According to a study conducted by McAfee online security, 94 percent of Americans believe their data and revealing photos are safe in the hands of a loved one. But what happens when that loved one becomes scorned? As many as 13 percent of U.S. adults have had their personal content leaked to others, and as many as one in 10 have had ex-partners who threatened to expose risqué photos of their ex online. Unfortunately, the study revealed that these threats are carried out up to 60 percent of the time. The most common reason for distributing revenge porn was lying and cheating, with “broke up with me” making up 14 percent of the cases.

While many may view revenge porn, also known as “cyber-rape” as being a “woman’s issue,” The American Psychological Association reports that men are more likely than their counterparts to report being victims of this type of online privacy invasion. Men not only send more nude photos than women, but they are also more likely to be threatened to have these images exposed and more likely to have these threats carried out.

Lasting Effects

While many may brush off revenge porn as being simply a humiliating experience for those involved, in actuality its psychological repercussions are much worse. According to The Huffington Post, many victims of revenge porn report a “need for hypervigilance,” which often borders panic and anxiety.

“I would wake up at 3 a.m. and check my email, my Facebook page, eBay, then Google my name, a ritual I performed three times before I could settle back down,” Dr. Annmarie Chiarini, who had nude photos of herself leaked online in 2011, told The Guardian.

Many women have been fired from their jobs, stalked, and disowned from their families following their images being distributed as revenge porn. As reported by Fox 4 News, some victims of revenge porn may even go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder — a condition which has been documented to physically change the brain and leave lasting scars. For example, victims of abuse such as rape and combat have shown deficits in verbal memory function.

 Hypervigilance, one of the hallmark symptoms of PTSD, can cause individuals to change their mentality and even behavior in order to always be prepared for a second “attack.” Long-term consequences of this symptom may mirror those of paranoia, which as defined by Mental Health America, often causes individuals to lead limited isolated lives. One revenge porn victim explained that the hypervigilance she developed following the experience continues to affect her sex life.

"I confiscate all forms of technology and make sure the laptop is closed (fear of webcam) before I have sex," the anonymous victim told Reddit.

Missouri therapist Diana Johnson told Fox that, in her opinion, the consequences of revenge porn can last throughout the victim's lifetime.

“It’s never going to go away. It’s harder with different kinds of trauma and abuse,” Johnson explained. “You have the event or an ongoing event, but this event is going for the rest of her life.”

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