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Revenge porn victim: ‘The cell phone had more rights than me’

Ohio bill would make posting explicit images without permission a crime.

Nine months ago, Katelyn Bowden was shocked and humiliated to find intimate photos of her from her ex-boyfriend’s stolen cell phone landed on dozens of websites.

Bowden reported it to the police, only to be told the only crime committed was the cell phone theft.

“I was told that in the state of Ohio, the cell phone had more rights than me, a human being,” said Bowden, of Youngstown. “I was hurt. I was depressed. I felt ashamed for taking photos within the confines of a trusting relationship.”

Bowden co-founded BADASS, a grassroots movement to help victims of revenge porn, and is now advocating for Ohio legislation that would make it a crime to share sexually explicit photos of videos of someone without consent.

Related: Teens and sexting: Ohio looks to set up diversion program as problem worsens State Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, said he will soon introduce legislation that would make posting explicit images without permission a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail. He said his bill will also provide protections against job or scholarship loss for victims.

“You have people everyday that are being victimized, whether it be a voluntary picture or video that was sent to one individual that then is turned over to one of these sites like ‘myex.com’ or one of these revenge sites in order extort money from the victim and victimize them over and over or if it’s a situation where you have a hack,” he said. Even lost or stolen phones can be the source of intimate images publicly posted without permission, Schiavoni said.

Related: Revenge porn websites ensnare Ohioans

Revenge porn is the vernacular term for non-consensual distribution of sexually graphic images of people — photos or videos that were obtained without consent or with consent in the context of an intimate relationship, according to the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative.

“It’s an attack. It’s an assault. It’s a way of humiliating and shaming somebody, by exposing them to millions of people on the internet without their permission,” Bowden said. “I decided I didn’t want anyone else to feel that way.”

Bowden contacted other victims, worked to get photos taken down and founded “Battling Against Demeaning and Abusive Selfie Sharing.”

Related: Ohio may outlaw ‘revenge porn’

Bowden said the group now counts 650 victims among its members, including 200 in Ohio.

Schiavoni said 38 states and the District of Columbia adopted laws specifically targeting revenge porn activities.

Aurora Police Det. Dan Kalk, who is also an attorney, said it’s challenging to use existing laws against telecommunications harassment and extortion to prosecute revenge porn actions. Schiavoni’s bill would make it easier to go after those responsible for such behavior, he said.

Schiavoni introduced a similar bill in September 2016 but it failed to make it out of committee before the legislative session ended in December 2016.

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