It can be devastating to find that private, intimate images of yourself are posted online for everyone to see. Perhaps your cloud was hacked, or an ex-partner posted an explicit video that you shared with them in confidence. No matter the origin, the distribution of intimate images without your consent is considered revenge porn—and it is unlawful.
Also commonly referred to as revenge pornography or nonconsensual pornography, the distribution of intimate images without consent gives rise to criminal recourse in 48 states and the District of Columbia. There is also a civil cause that exists at the federal level under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). If you are a victim of nonconsensual pornography, we recommend taking the following steps immediately:
- Identify all instances of the images or media online,
- Report the content to Google via its revenge porn removal tool and other search engines,
- Report the content to the social media platform(s) where it was posted,
- Reach out to the perpetrator who posted the content and request removal, and
- Work with an experienced revenge porn removal attorney to file a revenge porn lawsuit and explore your legal options.
At Minc Law, we have extensive experience helping revenge porn victims remove explicit and harmful content from the internet. We help victims navigate internet search result reporting procedures to compel removal, pursue legal action and avoid drawing further attention to the matter, and work with law enforcement to bring perpetrators to justice.
In this article, we define the crime known as the distribution of intimate images without consent. We then provide in-depth information on the federal and state-by-state laws governing this crime, as well as actionable tips to follow if your intimate images are distributed without your permission.
What is the ‘Distribution of Intimate Images Without Consent’?
The concept of distributing intimate images without consent has only started being taken seriously over the past decade. It can still be difficult to understand what specific actions could be classified as non-consensual sharing of intimate images.
In this section, we define the distribution of intimate images without consent and provide a few common examples.
Definition of ‘Distribution of Intimate Images Without Consent’
Non-consensual distribution of intimate images occurs when a perpetrator shares explicit videos or pictures of the victim without their permission. The purpose of this behavior is usually to intimidate, harass, or exploit the victim—who is usually a woman.
Is the Distribution of Intimate Images Without Consent Considered ‘Revenge Porn’?
Yes, this behavior is also known as revenge porn (or non-consensual pornography). The term “revenge porn” usually implies malicious intent or revenge as the motive, but both terms refer to the unauthorized sharing of intimate images. No matter the motivation for the action, this violation of privacy is now criminalized in many jurisdictions worldwide.
Is the Distribution of Intimate Images Without Consent a Form of Blackmail?
Blackmail is a broad term for threatening to reveal damaging or embarrassing information about a person unless they meet certain demands. These demands usually involve money or some form of favor.
Blackmail typically differs from revenge porn in its intent and aftermath. Revenge porn involves the non-consensual sharing of explicit images or videos, often intended to cause harm or humiliation to the depicted person. The primary purpose is not necessarily to demand money or other favors, as in extortion or blackmail.
While both involve significant privacy breaches and are unlawful in many jurisdictions, their differences lie primarily in the nature of the threat and the intent behind the act.
However, there are some situations where blackmail and non-consensual image-sharing can overlap. For example, if a perpetrator is distributing (or threatening to distribute) your intimates unless you do what they want, this behavior is a form of blackmail.
What Are Examples of the Distribution of Intimate Images Without Consent (Revenge Porn)?
Revenge porn can take many forms. Some of the most common nonconsensual pornography scenarios stem from:
- Leaked sexts,
- Hacked private nude photos, and
- Angry past (or present) romantic partners seeking to shame you.
We explore an example of each scenario below.
Nonconsensual Publication & Sharing of Confidential Sexts
Say you are sexting with your long-distance boyfriend. You eventually decide to send nude images of yourself, trusting him to keep the pictures private.
Later, you discover that your boyfriend was not as trustworthy as you thought; he posted the images on revenge porn websites without telling you. This is an all-too-common example of nonconsensual pornography that we see here at Minc Law.
For further reading, please see our comprehensive resource ‘My Ex Posted My Nudes Online: What Can I Do to Remove Them?’
Hacked Private Nudes & Intimate Selfies
You do not have to share nude photos with anyone for them to be leaked online. Say you took a few explicit selfies on your phone. You planned to send them to your girlfriend, but you decided to save them for another day. You eventually forgot all about them.
But one day, you receive an email from a stranger claiming to have posted your nude photos online. They send you a link to a site where the photos are posted publicly. It turns out that the perpetrator hacked your cloud account and posted your photos online, hoping you will pay them money to take the images down.
Unfortunately, sextortion schemes like this are on the rise.
Publishing Intimate Images Without Your Consent on Revenge Porn & Shaming Websites
Finally, say you are involved in an extramarital affair. One day, your spouse finds an explicit text thread on your phone, where you have sent multiple nude photos and videos of yourself to someone else.
Your spouse is hurt and enraged—and to strike back at you, they post the images on various revenge porn, shaming, and cheater websites. This is also one of the most pervasive forms of revenge pornography that clients come to us seeking help over.
What Does Not Typically Qualify as the Distribution of Intimate Images Without Consent?
On the other hand, not every scenario fits the definition of non-consensual pornography. The following examples are not considered distributing intimate images without consent:
Consensual Paid Pornography
You once sold some nude images of yourself to a pornography website, but now you want those images removed from the internet. Perhaps you are worried the images will affect your career opportunities, or maybe you do not want your children to find those images of you.
While it is possible to have those images removed or suppressed, this situation does not qualify as nonconsensual pornography.
Authorized Use or Release of Photos
Say you visited your favorite tattoo studio and commissioned a large, intricate piece on your hip. The artist asked if they could photograph the tattoo to show potential customers. You agreed to sign a release form letting the studio use the photo.
Now, however, you see the photo online and in the studio’s other advertising materials. You were not originally worried about the image because it did not include your face—but at this point, everyone in your small town knows the photo is of your hip without underwear on! While the photo is not explicit or sexual in nature, you are still worried about how this photo will affect your career opportunities.
But since you signed a release form and the studio is using the photo legally, the image is not being distributed without consent.
What is the Impact of Being the Victim of Nonconsensual Image Sharing?
While the distribution of intimate images without consent can affect anyone, most victims are women or LGBTQ+. Nonconsensual pornography is much like other sexual crimes in that it disproportionately affects women, girls, and those in marginalized communities.
A 2017 Campaign for Civil Rights Initiative study found that 90% of revenge porn victims were women, and 68% were between 18 and 30 years old. Studies have also found that LGBTQ+ adolescents are at an increased risk of image-based sexual abuse. Threats of sharing intimate images can be especially harmful in cases where the victim is not open about their sexuality.
Many domestic abusers and sex traffickers use nonconsensual pornography to harass and control their victims. They threaten to share explicit images of their partners as a way to keep them in the relationship and control their behavior.
Nonconsensual pornography is a crime that can have devastating consequences for victims. Many subjects of revenge porn are stalked, threatened, and harassed. If the images “go viral” online, victims can lose personal relationships and professional opportunities. Common mental and emotional effects of nonconsensual pornography include depression, anxiety, and thoughts of self-harm.
Federal & State Laws on the Distribution of Intimate Images Without Consent
Since revenge porn and other forms of online sexual exploitation are relatively new phenomena, federal and state laws are often a step behind. Prosecuting perpetrators of nonconsensual pornography often involves filing a related claim, such as copyright infringement or cyber harassment.
In this section, we list the relevant federal and state laws that apply to revenge porn cases, as well as considerations if the perpetrator is underage.
Federal Legislation Combating the Distribution of Intimate Images Without Consent
At the federal level, revenge porn is not classified as a crime. However, the Violence Against Women Act of 2022 provides a civil cause of action for a victim “whose intimate visual depiction is disclosed, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce or using any means or facility of interstate or foreign commerce, without the consent of the individual, where such disclosure was made by a person who knows that, or recklessly disregards whether, the individual has not consented to such disclosure.”
In other words, if a perpetrator publishes an explicit image of you online despite knowing you do not consent, you may be able to file a federal civil claim against them to obtain civil remedies (not criminal remedies). While this statute is still new and relatively unproven, it is a positive step toward assisting revenge porn victims.
Victims may be able to obtain a restraining order, a court order to remove nonconsensual porn from the internet, and/or collect monetary damages up to $150,000.
In certain revenge pornography situations, there are several ancillary federal criminal statutes that may apply and have been used for purposes of prosecution by the FBI. For example, in a past case where a perpetrator created and circulated doctored images, related postings, and personal information of a victim (including fake social media accounts), they were prosecuted, and faced felony charges, under federal cyberstalking and federal identity theft statutes.
Distribution of Intimate Images Without Consent at the State Level
Great progress has been made over the last ten years in criminalizing the distribution of intimate images at the state level. Now, most state criminal laws specifically classify revenge porn as the ‘distribution of intimate or sexual images’.
For the states with criminal laws on their books that do not explicitly spell out the distribution of intimate content, the existing statute’s language is typically wide enough in scope that it is applied to present-day revenge porn. For example, the distribution of intimate images without consent in Idaho is typically addressed under its video voyeurism statute.
Further, state revenge porn laws may vary in their scope and penalties. Penalties for committing revenge porn may range from misdemeanors to felonies, depending on the specific facts of the case.
For example, the distribution of intimate images without consent in California is classified as a misdemeanor – punishable by up to one year in jail or a $1,000 fine. The distribution of intimate images without consent in Georgia is also a misdemeanor but if the material is posted to a website that advertises, then it will be treated as a felony. On the other hand, revenge porn is a felony in Illinois.
Below is a state-by-state chart of criminal revenge porn laws in the United States. Use it to see if your state has laws criminalizing revenge porn.
Revenge Porn Laws by State
|Alabama||First offense is a Class A Misdemeanor (punishable by up to one year in jail); subsequent offenses are Class C Felony (punishable by up to ten years of incarceration)||Prohibits distributing a private image of another person, including knowingly circulating a private image with the intent to harass, threaten, coerce, or intimidate the subject of the content.||AL Code § 13A-6-240|
|Alaska||Class B Misdemeanor (punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or $2,000 fine)||Prohibits publishing or distributing electronic or printed photographs, pictures, or films that show the genitals of another person, or that depict that person engaged in sexual activity.||AZ Rev. Stat. § 13-1425|
|Arizona||Class 5 Felony; Class 4 Felony if image is disclosed electronically (punishable by 1.5 years in prison, a fine of up to $150,000, and possible registration as a sex offender); Threats to disclose are treated as a Class 1 Misdemeanor||Prohibits intentionally disclosing the image of an identifiable person in a state of nudity or engaged in sexual activity, when the person has an expectation of privacy, and when the offender intends to harm, harass, intimidate, threaten, or coerce the subject of the content.||AZ Rev. Stat. § 13-1425|
|Arkansas||Class A Misdemeanor (punishable by up to one year in jail, and/or a fine of up to $2,500)||Prohibits unlawful distribution of sexual images or recordings.||AR Code, § 5-26-314|
|California||Misdemeanor (punishable by a maximum of one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000)||Prohibits distributing images or videos of another person’s intimate body parts without the person’s consent. The person distributing the material must do so with the intent to cause emotional distress or suffering. Distributing images or videos of another person engaged in sexual activity without their consent and for the purpose of causing emotional distress or suffering are also prohibited.||CA Penal Code § 647(j)(4)|
|Colorado||Class 1 Misdemeanor (punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a mandatory fine of $10,000)||Prohibits posting or distributing any photograph, video, or other image displaying the private intimate parts of an identifiable person eighteen years of age or older with the intent to harass the depicted person and inflict serious emotional distress upon the depicted person.||CO Rev. Stat. § 18-7-107, § 18-7-108|
|Connecticut||Class A Misdemeanor (punishable by up to one year in prison and/or a potential fine of up to $2,000)||Prohibits unlawful dissemination of an intimate image with intent to cause harm and without the victim’s consent.||CT Gen. Stat. § 53a-189c|
|Delaware||Class A Misdemeanor (punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,300), Class G Felony if aggravating factors are present (punishable by up to two years in jail and/or a fine)||Prohibits posting a nude or sexually explicit photo or video of someone on the internet without their consent.||11 DE Code § 1335|
|Florida||First Degree Misdemeanor (punishable by up to one year in jail and/or up to $1,000 in criminal fines); subsequent offenses may carry felony charges and penalties||Prohibits publishing a sexually explicit image of another person along with personal identifying information of the depicted person’s content, for no legitimate purpose, and with the intent of causing the depicted person emotional distress.||FL Stat. § 784.049|
|Georgia||Aggravated Misdemeanor, but subsequent charges can be a Felony (punishable by one to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $100,000); OR if the material is posed on a website that advertises, the offense is treated as a Felony (punishable by one to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $100,000)||Prohibits knowingly and without consent transmitting or posting photos of person engaged in a sexual act, and the transmission or posting is harassment or cause financial loss to the depicted person and serves no legitimate purpose to the depicted person.||GA Code § 16-11-90|
|Hawaii||First degree violations are a Misdemeanor, second degree violations are a Class C Felony (punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine)||Prohibits transmitting nude photos or videos of a person on the internet without their consent and transmitting photos or videos of a person engaged in sexual activity without their consent.||HI Rev. Stat. § 711-1110.9|
|Idaho||Felony||Prohibits publishing an image of the intimate areas of another person without their consent. The images must be published intentionally or with reckless disregard and the offender must have known that the images were meant to be private.||ID Code § 18-6605|
|Illinois||Felony (punishable by 1-3 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $25,000)||Prohibits intentionally publishing an image of another person who is at least 18 years old, identifiable from the image itself or information displayed in connection with the image, and engaged in sexual activity or depicted with intimate body parts exposed in whole or in part.||720 ILCS 5/11-23.5|
|Indiana||First offense is a Class A Misdemeanor; If there is a prior unrelated conviction under this section of the Indiana Criminal Code, it is a Level 6 Felony||Prohibits distributing “intimate images,” defined as those featuring a person in the nude or engaged in sexual activity.||IN Code §35-45-4-8|
|Iowa||Aggravated Misdemeanor (punishable by up to two years in jail and a fine of up to $8,540)||Prohibits disseminating or publishing – or causing to disseminate or publish – a photograph or film showing another person in a state of full or partial nudity or engaged in sexual activity. The offender must also know that the victim has not consented to the circulation of the material.||IA Code § 708.7|
|Kansas||First offense is Presumptive Probation; Second offense is Felony Blackmail (punishable by up to six years in prison)||(This law pertains to privacy issues) Prohibits uploading sexual photos or videos of another person without their permission.||KS Stat. §21-6101(a)(8)|
|Kentucky||First offense is a Class A Misdemeanor; subsequent offenses are a Class D Felony; if offender profits off the distribution of the material it is a Class D Felony and each subsequent offense for profit is a Class C Felony||Prohibits distributing sexually explicit images without the subject’s consent.||KY Rev. Stat. § 531.120|
|Louisiana||Violations are punishable by up to two years in jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000||Prohibits disseminating a picture or video of a person in the nude or engaged in sexual activity without their consent or when the photo or video was taken with reasonable expectations of privacy. Offender must have intent to harass, threaten, or intimidate the subject of the material. The subject must not have consented to the publication of the material. This law also prohibits allowing for the dissemination of such content.||LA Rev. Stat. § 14:283.2|
|Maine||Class D Misdemeanor (punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,000)||Prohibits transmitting sexually explicit photos of a person on the internet without their consent.||17-A ME Rev. Stat. § 511-A|
|Maryland||Misdemeanor (punishable by up to two years in jail and/or a fine of $500)||Prohibits intentionally publishing any photograph, film, videotape, recording, or other reproduction of a person engaged in sexual activity, and the publication must occur online or by other digital means. For guilt to be established, the offender must know that the victim did not consent to the placement of the content on the internet and the victim must have had a reasonable expectation that the content would be kept private.||MD Crim. Law Code § 3-809|
|Massachusetts||None||There is currently no law protecting the citizens of Massachusetts||N/A|
|Michigan||Violations punishable by up to 93 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Subsequent violations are a Misdemeanor (punishable by up to one year in prison and/or a fine of up to $1,000)||Prohibits posting images or video recordings of a sexual nature online, without someone’s consent. Offender must post the content intentionally and with intent to threaten, coerce, or intimidate the subject of the material. The offense should have know that the subject was under a reasonable expectation of privacy and the subject must be identifiable in the content.||MI Comp L § 750.145e|
|Minnesota||Violations are a Gross Misdemeanor (punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of $1,000); If material causes financial loss, is characterized by intent to profit or intent to harass, or was posted to a porn site, violations are a Felony; Victim may be entitled to damages related to relevant financial losses or mental anguish; Damages may also be equal to any profit made by the person who intentionally disclosed the image; Civil penalties are capped at $10,000 and costs/fees.||Prohibits intentionally disseminating a private sexual image of another person without the subject’s consent when the subject (1) has intimate body parts exposed in full or in part, (2) is identifiable, and (3) had a reasonable expectation of privacy. Subject’s consent to the creation of the content is not a viable defense against offender’s liability.||MN Stat § 617.261|
|Mississippi||First offense is a Misdemeanor (punishable by up to six months in a county jail and/or a fine or up to $1,000); subsequent offenses are a Felony (punishable by up to one year in prison and/or a fine of up to $2,000); Offenses for financial profit are also a Felony||Prohibits circulating images or video depicting a person’s intimate body parts.||Miss. Code §97-29-64.1|
|Missouri||Class D Felony. Civil damages available but may not exceed $10,000. If victim is entitled to actual damages they will be awarded the larger of the two amounts ($10,000 or actual damages)||Prohibits threatening the nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images, circulating such content for the purpose of coercing or attempting to coerce another person, or obtaining such content in circumstances a reasonable person would understand the image was to remain private or was obtained against the will of the that person. The offender must be attempting to derive financial or other gain from the content. The subject must be identifiable from the image or the information associated with the image and the subject must be engaged in sexual activity or have their intimate body parts exposed in whole or in part.||MO Rev. Stat. § 573.110 and § 573.112|
|Montana||First violation punishable by a fine of $500 and/or imprisonment in county jail for up to six months; Second violation is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment in county jail for up to one year; Third and subsequent violations punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and up to five years in state prison||(This law is about privacy and communications) Prohibits publication of private images.||MT Code § 45-8-213|
|Nebraska||First offense is a Class I Misdemeanor, subsequent violation is a Class IV Felony.||Prohibits distributing images or videos of another person’s intimate body parts or of another person engaged in sexual activity. Offender must do so knowingly and intentionally and must have known that the subject did not consent to making the content public. Subject must have had a reasonable expectation the image would remain private. The content must have served no legitimate purpose.||NE Code § 28-311.08 and § 25-3503|
|Nevada||Violations punishable by one to four years in Nevada State Prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000||Prohibits electronically disseminating or selling images or videos of another person that are intimate in nature. Subject must have (1) not given prior consent to the electronic dissemination or sale of the content, (2) had a reasonable expectation that the intimate content would be kept private, and (3) been at least 18 years of age at time content was created.||NV Rev. Stat. § 200-780|
|New Hampshire||Class B Felony||Prohibits the nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images with the intent to harass, intimidate, threaten, or coerce the subject of the content.||NH Rev. Stat. § 644:9-a|
|New Jersey||Felony (punishable by three to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $15,000)||Prohibits making a nonconsensual recording that reveals another person’s intimate body parts or shows another person engaged in sexual activity without their consent.||NJ Rev. Stat. § 2C:14-9|
|New Mexico||First offense is a Misdemeanor, second offense is a Felony||Prohibits distributing sensitive images without authorization via distribution, publication, using electronic communications to broadcast, and making such content publicly available by other means.||NM Stat. § 30-37A-1|
|New York||Class A Misdemeanor||Prohibits the dissemination or publication of an intimate image and the publication of images or videos of a person engaged in sexual activity without their consent.||NY Penal L § 245.15|
|North Carolina||Class H Felony||Prohibits knowingly disclosing a sexual image of another person with the intent to either (1) coerce, harass, intimidate, demean, humiliate, or cause financial loss to the subject of the content, or (2) cause others to coerce, harass, intimidate, demean, humiliate, or cause financial loss to the subject when the subject is identifiable from the image or the information connected to the image.||NC Gen. Stat. § 14-190.5A|
|North Dakota||Class A Misdemeanor||Prohibits disclosing nude or sexual images of a person without the person’s consent and with the intent to identify the person and cause harm.||ND § 12.1-17-07.2|
|Ohio||First offense is a Third Degree Misdemeanor; Second offense is a Second Degree Misdemeanor; Subsequent offenses are First Degree Misdemeanors. When the offender is under the age of 18 and the subject of the image is less than 5 years older than the offender, the offender will not be prosecuted. Civil remedies include the recovery of damages regardless of whether the offender profited from circulating the material of the victim.||Prohibits nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images.||OH Rev. Code § 2917.211|
|Oklahoma||Misdemeanor (punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000)||Prohibits disseminating private sexual images of a person without that person’s consent.||21 OK Stat. § 1040.13b|
|Oregon||Class A Misdemeanor; repeated offenses are a Class C Felony||Prohibits the unlawful dissemination of an intimate image.||OR Rev. Stat. § 163.472|
|Pennsylvania||Violations punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and/or up to one year in prison||Prohibits publishing any sexually explicit image with the intent of causing the subject distress and without the consent of the subject.||18 PA Cons. Stat. § 3131|
|Rhode Island||First violation is a Misdemeanor (punishable by up to one year of imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $1,000); Subsequent violations are a Felony (punishable by up to three years in prison and/or a fine of $3,000); Violations involving blackmail are punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000||Prohibits the unauthorized dissemination of indecent material when an offender intentionally circulates content of an identifiable person over 18 years of age that is sexually explicit or features intimate body parts. The content must have been created with the reasonable expectation that the content would remain private and it must have been published without the subject’s consent and will reckless disregard for the likelihood the subject would suffer harm as a result of the publication. For guilt to be established, the offender could have also published the material solely to cause the subject harm or with the intent to harass, intimidate, threaten, or coerce the subject.||RI Gen. L § 11-64-3|
|South Dakota||Class 1 Misdemeanor, but if the victim is 17 years old or younger a violation is a Class 6 Felony||Prohibits recording a person’s intimate body parts through or under their clothing and recording a person engaged in sexual activity. The offender must have done either or both of these activities without the subject’s consent or knowledge. For guilt to be established, the offender could also have engaged in either or both of the above mentioned behaviors merely with the intent to self-gratify or to harass, embarrass, and invade the privacy of another person. Under these circumstances, the subject must have had a reasonable expectation of privacy. Using, disclosing, or disseminating such content is also prohibited, if the offender intended to self-gratify or to harass, embarrass, and invade the privacy of another person. The offender must have published the content knowingly and intentionally. This statute also applies to images that have been edited to falsely resemble a person, while the content bearing this resemblance must also be of a sexually explicit nature. The offender must do so without the consent or knowledge of the person whose image is depicted and with the intent to self-gratify or to harass, to embarrass, and to invade the privacy of the person whose image is depicted.||SD Codified L § 22-21-4|
|Tennessee||Class A Misdemeanor||Prohibits dissemination of sexually explicit material with the intent to cause emotional distress. This law also applied to a person distributing an image of the intimate parts of another identifiable person if (1) the image was photographed under circumstances where the parties agreed or understood the image would remain private, and (2) the person depicted in the image suffers emotional distress.||TN Code § 39-13-301|
|Texas||State Jail Felony||Prohibits the unlawful disclosure or promotion of intimate visual material if the offender intentionally disclosed the material without the subject’s consent and the material depicts a person engaged in sexual activity or a person’s intimate body parts exposed in full or in part.||TX Penal Code § 21.16|
|Utah||Class A Misdemeanor||Prohibits knowingly or intentionally distributing sexual images to any third party without the subject’s consent.||UT Code § 76-5b-203|
|Vermont||Violations are punishable by up to 2 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $2,000. If the offender disseminates the material for profit, they may be imprisoned for up to five years and/or be fined up to $10,000||Prohibits the nonconsensual dissemination of someone’s nude or sexually explicit photographs or videos.||13 VSA § 2606|
|Virginia||Class 1 Misdemeanor (punishable by up to two years in prison and/or a fine)||Prohibits disseminating sexual photos without the subject’s consent and with the malicious intent to coerce, harass, or intimidate the subject.||VA Code § 18.2-386.2|
|Washington||Gross Misdemeanor. If the violation involves stalking, Class C Felony||Prohibits intentionally and maliciously disclosing an intimate image of another person without their consent.||WA Rev Code § 9A.86.010|
|Washington D.C.||Felony (punishable by a fine of up to $12,500 and/or three years in prison)||Prohibits knowingly disclosing one or more sexual images of another identifiable person when (1) the person depicted did not consent to the disclosure of the sexual image, (2) there was an agreement or understanding between the person depicted and person disclosing that the sexual image would not be disclosed and (3) the offender intended to harm the person depicted or receive financial gain.||DC Code § 22-2051 et seq|
|West Virginia||Misdemeanor (punishable by a fine between $1,000 and $5,000 and/or up to one year in jail||Prohibits intentionally displaying sexually explicit or intimate images of another person in a public way, or distributing or threatening to disclose sexually explicit or intimate images of another person without their consent.||WV Code § 61-8-28|
|Wisconsin||Class I Felony||Prohibits nonconsensual distribution of images featuring a nude or partially nude person or person engaging in sexually explicit conduct. The subject must have had a reasonable expectation at the time the image was captured that the image would remain private and the offender must have or should have known the subject did not consent to the capturing of the image.||WI Stat. § 942.09|
|Wyoming||Misdemeanor (punishable by up to one year of imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $5,000)||Prohibits the unlawful dissemination of intimate images.||WY Stat. 6-4-306|
What if the Perpetrator is Under 18?
If an underage perpetrator shared explicit images of you without your consent, the legal standard is slightly stricter. While adults can be held liable for nonconsensual pornography if they should have known their actions were harmful, an underage perpetrator is only liable if they knew and intended to harm you anyway.
To prove an underage perpetrator committed nonconsensual pornography, a plaintiff must prove the following elements are true:
- A reasonable person would understand that the image they obtained should have remained private;
- The defendant knew or should have known that the plaintiff did not consent to the content’s publishing; and
- The defendant knew that publishing the content would harm the plaintiff.
Steps to Take if Your Intimate Images Are Distributed Without Your Consent
If you discover private, intimate images of you online, try not to panic. Remember that the perpetrator is the one at fault here—not you. Even if you took the photo or video yourself, it does not mean you gave permission for it to be shared publicly.
Nonconsensual pornography is often a tool domestic abusers, sex traffickers, and scammers use to prey on innocent victims. However, while becoming a victim of revenge porn can feel like a catastrophe, it is possible to take the images down and hold the perpetrator accountable for their actions.
In this section, we list actionable steps for locating and removing images that have been distributed online without your consent.
What if I Was Under 18 in the Images?
If you were a minor when the picture or video was taken, this content would be classified as child pornography.
Do not save copies of the content as evidence, since this behavior could be interpreted as the possession of child pornography. Instead, note the location of the images and where the images came from (such as a hack or data breach).
Then, reach out to your local prosecutor or file a criminal complaint to assess the potential criminal consequences for the perpetrator. An experienced prosecutor can advise you on the specific child pornography laws in your state and inform you of your potential legal remedies. If the perpetrator is located in a different jurisdiction than you, reach out to the police in the jurisdiction where they reside.
Find All Instances of the Image Online
Your first course of action should be to save a copy of the images and any messages you have exchanged with the perpetrator. Take screenshots, print the images, or save them to a flash drive or hard drive. (Again, if you were underage when the photos or video were taken, do not save copies of the images themselves.)
Saving the content ensures you can pursue legal relief even if the perpetrator tries to delete it later.
Conduct a Reverse Image Search
To find the source of an image, you can use Google’s Reverse Image Search tool. On your device, right-click (or long-press) on the image and copy it. Then, navigate to Google Images, click “search by image,” and paste the picture you copied into the search bar.
The search results should list all the web pages where that image is located.
Use Advanced Filters in Google to Find the Content
Google and other search engines have advanced search features that help users refine and filter search results. For instance, you can place a phrase in quotation marks to search for an exact phrase, or use a minus (-) sign before a word to exclude it from the search results.
You can also run a search of a specific site by using “site:” followed by the URL of the site, then your search terms (for example, “site:minclaw.com online reputation management tips”).
If you know a specific word or phrase is in the URL of the pages you are searching for, you can use “inurl:” and the term. For example, you might search “inurl:Jane Doe”. Or if you want to search within the text of a document for your keyword instead, you can use “intext:” and your search term.
Finally, if you know the content is in a specific file type, you can start your search with “filetype:” and the file extension, such as “filetype:jpg” or “filetype:mov”.
Once you know the URL(s) where the explicit images are hosted, you can use sites like DomainTools or Who is Hosting This to find the platform’s hosting provider. You can then use this information to have the content removed or pursue legal action against the poster.
Please see our comprehensive resource explaining how to Google Yourself effectively.
Navigate Adult Websites
Another way to find all instances of the intimate images in question is to go directly to the primary sources of pornographic content online. You can search popular adult websites such as:
- Tumblr, and
Often when a video or image is posted on one of these sites, it is quickly copied and published on other platforms. Be careful not to search your name too frequently on these sites, however. The more your name is searched on these sites, the more likely it is to appear on the site’s search tags. Google search results may eventually include these porn websites in searches for your name, even if your content is not published on these platforms.
Utilize Online Monitoring Tools
Other online tools and services can help you monitor the web and social media sites for specified content. For example, Google Alerts is a free and effective tool to keep tabs on content that includes your name or other personally identifying information.
Some of these services even specialize in identifying and removing nonconsensual intimate images. For example, PimEyes is a facial and image recognition service that leverages machine learning and facial recognition technology to scour the web for your images and provide you real-time alerts.
For those who want to keep an active watch for subsequent postings, images, or attacks that may pop up, consider using a digital risk protection and monitoring service. At Minc Law, we offer a digital risk protection (DRP) service for an extra level of surveillance over your digital footprint.
However, DRP is only a viable option in cases where your name is attached to the content. Our DRP service identifies and responds to online threats before they take form and help effectively mitigate the damage caused.
Report the Content to Google & Other Search Engines
Reporting unauthorized intimate content to search engines is crucial for regaining control over your personal information. Flagging this content can also prevent further harm by reducing its visibility and accessibility, protecting your online reputation and privacy.
How to Report Revenge Porn to Google
Revenge porn has been banned on Google’s platforms since 2015. Any nude or sexually explicit images shared without consent can be reported to Google’s revenge porn portal. If you find nonconsensual intimate images of yourself online, you can place a removal request with Google to request that content be removed from search results.
Keep in mind, however, that removing a site or image from search results does not remove it from the internet altogether. That content can still be found using the site’s direct URL, other search engines, or shares on social media. But reporting especially harmful content to Google can be a helpful strategy for mitigating harm while you work to remove the content at its source.
How to Report Revenge Porn to Bing
You can also report nonconsensual pornography to Bing, the Microsoft-owned search engine. Microsoft’s moderation team will remove links to images of revenge porn from Bing search results, as well as such content that is shared on Xbox Live or OneDrive. Use Microsoft’s Non-consensual Intimate Imagery Reporting Form to get started.
Report the Content to Social Media Platforms (if Posted There)
If nonconsensual pornography was shared on a social media site, you can report the unauthorized content to the platform.
Nonconsensual intimate images violate the terms of service for every major social media website, and most sites have clear reporting and removal procedures. By reporting that content, you can instigate its removal—and potentially help deactivate or suspend the perpetrator’s account, further protecting your privacy.
Reporting Distribution of Intimate Images Without Consent on Instagram
Any Instagram user can report intimate images that appear to be shared without consent; the post does not need to contain an image of you for you to report it.
To report an explicit image or video on Instagram, tap the three dots at the top right of the post. Choose Report and tap It’s inappropriate. When asked to select the reason for reporting the post, choose Harassment or bullying.
The Community Operations team will then review the post and, if they find that it violates the Community Standards, remove it.
Reporting Distribution of Intimate Images Without Consent on Facebook
Like Instagram, Facebook allows any user to report seemingly nonconsensual intimate images posted on the platform. To begin a report, tap or click the “…” menu next to the post. Click Report, then select Nudity.
The Community Operations team will review the report and remove content that violates Facebook’s Community Standards.
Reporting Distribution of Intimate Images Without Consent on Twitter
Twitter’s non-consensual nudity policy prohibits intimate photos or videos from being shared without the subject’s consent.
From the Twitter app or your browser, you can report this content for review by tapping the “…” icon on the relevant post and selecting Report Tweet. Choose It displays a sensitive photo or video, then An authorized photo or video. Follow the prompts to finish and submit your report.
You can also start a report by visiting the private information report form and selecting An unauthorized photo or video.
Reporting Distribution of Intimate Images Without Consent on Reddit
To report revenge porn on Reddit, you can visit Reddit’s report form and select I want to report spam or abuse. Most images visible on Reddit are hosted on Imgur. To report and remove these images, right-click on the image and choose “copy image address,” then submit them using Imgur’s removal request form. In your report, state that the images belong to you, and include your email address in case the review team needs to contact you for more information.
For removing content from social media platforms, please see our comprehensive guide explaining ‘How to Get Something Taken Off the Internet’.
Reach Out to the Perpetrator Who Posted the Content
Depending on the poster’s identity and your unique situation, you may be able to contact the perpetrator personally and convince them to take down the harmful image(s). Especially if you know the poster personally, a diplomatic message can be very persuasive.
In more complex scenarios, your attorney may need to send a demand letter informing the perpetrator that you will take legal action if they do not take down the content. That letter alone may be sufficient to convince the perpetrator to remove the harmful content on their own.
Work With an Experienced Revenge Porn Removal Attorney
Removing nonconsensual porn can be complex and time-consuming. But if the time and cost are worth bringing the perpetrators to justice, we are here to help.
Attorneys experienced in revenge porn removal can advise you on your legal options based on the laws in your state. We understand the nuances involved in reporting harmful content to various platforms and search engines—and if necessary, we can file a lawsuit to hold the perpetrator accountable. Just as importantly, we can provide a judgment-free, supportive presence during this difficult time.
File a Revenge Porn Lawsuit
If you are a victim of nonconsensual pornography, you may have a civil or criminal claim—or both—against the perpetrator.
For instance, if you were underage when the images were taken, the perpetrator likely committed child pornography. This offense is always penalized very strictly, and perpetrators can be prosecuted under both state and federal law.
If you are an adult victim, the perpetrator may still likely face large fines and jail time in 48 states and the District of Columbia.
Criminal cases are prosecuted by the state; you have no control over how the case proceeds beyond reporting the incident to the district attorney or law enforcement. Private attorneys can advocate for victims and help gather evidence, but they generally do not participate in criminal cases before the court.
Civil claims, on the other hand, are much more under your and your attorney’s control. You may be awarded monetary damages and obtain a restraining order or court order to remove the harmful content.
Only 12 states currently have civil laws concerning nonconsensual porn, but you may also be able to bring related civil claims such as:
Due to the sensitive nature of these cases, you may want to use a pseudonym. This option prevents your name from appearing in public court documents and protects your privacy. While not every plaintiff can use a pseudonym, it is worth asking your attorney about your options.
Please see our comprehensive resource explaining ‘How to File a Revenge Porn Lawsuit’ for further information.
What Your Revenge Porn Attorney Needs From You
Regardless of how dire the situation appears, there is almost always a way for an experienced revenge porn attorney to remove your content. But to give them the most chances of success, be sure to save as many details of the incident as possible, including:
- The perpetrator’s identity (including online profiles, social handles, and page URLs);
- Screenshots or files of the intimate content (unless it could be considered child pornography);
- Screenshots or files of any messages with the perpetrator;
- The date(s) that the abuse took place; and
- URLs where the offending content was published.
What Can I Do If the Perpetrator Lives in Another Country?
If the content was posted from overseas, you may need to file a lawsuit against them in that country. The likelihood of recovering damages depends largely on the laws in that country.
If the perpetrator is now in the U.S. but posted the content while in another country, you can still file a civil claim against them in the United States. Part of this lawsuit may include determining which country’s law should apply to the case (known as the “conflict of laws argument”).
If you do not know the perpetrator’s identity or location, you will likely need to file a John Doe lawsuit to identify them. To learn more about unmasking anonymous perpetrators, please see our comprehensive guide to John Doe lawsuits and their respective costs.
Obtain an Order of Protection
Orders of protection—sometimes known as restraining orders—are one way to assist victims of nonconsensual pornography. These orders bring serious consequences against the perpetrator for distributing more images or contacting the victim further.
Send a DMCA Takedown Notice
If you took the video or photos, you own the copyright to those images. You can use a DMCA takedown notice to inform the host website that the copyrighted work is being published without your consent. While less complex than lawsuits, DMCA takedown notices can still backfire if not approached strategically—which is why it is best to work with an experienced DMCA attorney to help you draft an effective letter.
We Can Help Remove Your Intimate Images From the Internet
At Minc Law, we know how overwhelming and devastating it can be to have your intimate images or media posted to the internet. Whether you sent the images or videos to a partner in confidence or had your phone or iCloud hacked, this is a crime and there is recourse.
We have extensive experience helping victims of revenge porn remove intimate and explicit content from pornography websites and the internet. We can help you fight back against this heinous crime.
If you would like to explore your content removal options, reach out to schedule your initial no-obligation consultation with an intake specialist by calling us at (216) 373-7706 or filling out our online contact form.