They put WHAT online?! Sexual assault goes viral.
Two girls have flirtatious conversation online with some boys. Then agree to meet “the boys.” They are sexually assaulted by adult men.
A high school student passes out at a party. The next day she learns that she was assaulted when video of the sexual assault goes viral across the high school.
A sexual predator adopts a fake persona and entices an unwitting child to send sexually explicit photos.
An ex-lover posts a nude photo to a “revenge porn” site. The victim is asked for $300 to have it removed.
The victims and perpetrators of all of these scenarios vary, but the tools are the same. Online apps and programs are used to shame, humiliate and sexually abuse victims. Images of sexual assault go viral or the internet is used to sexually abuse others.
The law has been slow to catch up but it’s getting there. Many states do not adequately protect victims of this behavior. Or, it seems like a game of whack-a-mole: once one problem is addressed, another pops up.
These problems are widespread and growing. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) has analyzed 6,000 reports of online sexual enticement and determined that 78% of the victims are girls while 82% of the offenders are male. Alarmingly, and unlike a lot of other types of sexual assault, 98% of the time, these offenders are strangers to the victims. For revenge porn, nearly 10 million Americans have been victims. Many online-based companies make a lot of money out of the sexual abuse and exploitation of women. Backpage, a leading example of such companies made $500 million from selling children for sex. How we got into this situation is a topic too long to discuss today, but make no mistake – laws caused this problem.
So what can the law do to help victims? Often, quite a bit. When sexual assault goes viral, both federal and state laws can be triggered. The federal child pornography statute, known as Masha’s law, was recently enhanced to help victims. Now, victims have a longer period of time in which to file a lawsuit. The compensation that can be given to victims was also enhanced.
In the situation of the post-assault viral video, Title IX – the law that holds schools accountable for sexual harassment – can sometimes be used to help victims.
Oklahoma state law is also catching up. Revenge porn became illegal in Oklahoma in 2016. This statute prohibits the non-consensual dissemination of sexual acts or display of private parts of the body. The statute applies to posters over the age of 18 where the victim is over 18. If the victim is under 18, then the act is child abuse or child sexual abuse and is regulated by different laws. Oklahoma’s laws about the distribution of child sexual images is strict – and this would include peers sharing images of sexual assault.
If you or a family member has been affected by online abuse, there are a few things you might want to know:
- You can ask to have a “pseudonym” in a lawsuit so that your privacy is not further harmed You can be “Jane Doe.”
- Child victims are not even allowed to be identified by name in lawsuits
- It is illegal to share child sexual images – even for a lawsuit. So the images will not get distributed again.
- Our consultations are free.
If you have questions about your rights in this area, contact Koller Trial Law.