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Domestic abuse, legal resources offer revenge porn victims support

Domestic abuse, legal resources offer...

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - A recent study published by the Data & Society Research Institute shows one in 25 Americans have either been victims of, or threatened by, revenge porn.

Once something is on the internet, it's nearly impossible to make it go away completely. However, there are places victims of revenge porn can turn to get both legal and emotional help.

"It's kind of a new subject that's coming to light,” Ann Kappauf said. She's the executive director of New Horizons Shelters and Outreach Centers, which help domestic and sexual abuse victims.

She’s referring to revenge porn, also called nonconsensual pornography, when someone posts sexually explicit photos or videos of their ex-significant other online for anyone to see.

"I see it as a form of abuse because it is,” she said. “It's the power and control."

Over the years through her work, Kappauf has heard of dozens of cases involving revenge porn in the area.

"It's common, and I think it's more common than people share,” she said.

"The social media aspect is probably the biggest contributor to this, because once you have the power to disseminate pictures of somebody to millions, it's going to become a problem,” attorney Cheryl Gill said.

Revenge porn is illegal in Wisconsin.

Gill explained taking a sexual photo without consent and sharing it is a felony and has been for a while.

A 2014 statute targets the explicit photos sent to partners willingly and then shared without consent, making that a misdemeanor.

"So if that happens to you, you immediately want to contact all social network platforms, as well as Google and other search engines,” Gill said.

She said sites such as Facebook will work with victims to remove the pictures, and search engines including Google can't delete photos off of sites, but will make it harder to find the photos.

Along with legal action and working with websites, Kappauf recommends seeking emotional help from places like New Horizons, which has a trauma therapist.

"A victim can come in and talk to her and help her realize what's on and maybe learn some coping skills, because it is traumatic,” she said.

La Crosse County District Attorney Tim Gruenke estimates there are about six revenge porn cases in the county each year.

If someone is convicted of the misdemeanor, it can be up to $10,000 and/or as many as nine months in jail.

Those penalties go up if the victim is under 18 or the photos were taken without consent.


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