Texas’ first law criminalizing revenge pornography went into effect Sept. 1, 2015. Texas joins 24 other states in banning the practice.

Revenge porn is the distribution of sexually explicit media without the consent of the individual involved. It is generally used to describe content uploaded onto the internet by intimate partners with the intent to humiliate or seek revenge on the partner after the end of a relationship.

The images are often accompanied by information identifying the individual such as name and location, which can negatively impact the life of the victim.

Under Texas Penal Code 21.16., any unlawful disclosure or promotion of intimate visual material can be punished as a class A Misdemeanor, which can result in up to a $4,000 fine and possibly a year in jail.

According to a poll by endrevengeporn.org, a cyber civil rights initiative that provides support to victims of nonconsensual porn, one in ten partners has threatened to publish nude photographs of his or her former partner online. In addition, 59 percent of those published photos were accompanied with the victim’s full name.

Previously, suing for civil damages had been the only option for revenge porn victims in Texas. A Houston woman was awarded $500,000 by a jury earlier this year in a case against her former college boyfriend, in which the court found the former boyfriend guilty of infliction of emotional distress. Revenge porn victims will now be able to have their cases heard in both civil and criminal courts.

Leonard Flaum, UTSA Title IX Coordinator in the Office of Equal Opportunity – the office that handles sexual harassment, including sexual assault and sexual violence – explained, “If someone does expose videos (or) images of someone that are inappropriate, the action is harmful to that person and creates a hostile environment for the exposed individual – especially if they are both students (at the same school), and may have to see each other every day.”

“If the victim does not want to prosecute criminally, they can still go through our (UTSA’s) system to get justice,” said Flaum.

Students can choose to report the incident to the UTSA Police Department, or to the Office of Equal Opportunity Services.

University police Lieutenant Thomas Calucci supports the law, stating, “Now we are able to enforce (the) law (against revenge porn), and when any member of our community is a victim of this (practice), we can use the law to successfully prosecute the crime.”

Calucci continues, “I hope this will dissuade someone from trying to humiliate or seek revenge on a partner for whatever reason.

“I have a 13-year-old daughter and I tell her the best way to avoid a certain situation is not to get in it in the first place; same thing goes with this law.”

Calucci cautions potential perpetrators, “I would encourage them to seek someone within our counseling center or somebody off campus to try and find a healthy way to deal with their emotions.”

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