TECH
10/21/2014 07:33 am ET Updated Oct 21, 2014

Now Women Are Getting Arrested For Revenge Porn

Waynesboro Police Department

Revenge porn is widely portrayed as an act committed by men against women. But in a new twist, women are no longer just the victims of those who post explicit photos of someone online without that person's consent.

They are also the perpetrators of revenge porn.

Over the weekend, a Virginia woman became one of the first people charged under a new state law, effective in July, that criminalizes posting nude pictures of someone on the Internet without the individual's consent.

Rachel Lynn Craig, 28, was having an argument with her former boyfriend when she allegedly stole an explicit photo of his current girlfriend from his phone and posted it on Facebook, according to Sgt. Brian Edwards of the Waynesboro, Virginia, Police Department. Craig took credit for posting the photo on her Facebook page, warning the victim "not to mess with her,” Edwards told HuffPost.

The arrest came two months after another woman was also charged in Virginia with revenge porn. Crystal Cherry allegedly posted nude photos of her boyfriend's former girlfriend on Instagram and Twitter just days after the new law took effect, according to local news reports.

According to victims advocates, most revenge porn cases involve men trying to humiliate former girlfriends after a breakup. Cases of women trying to embarrass other women by publishing nude photos appear to be rare, but more have surfaced as 13 states in the past two years passed laws making revenge porn a crime.

Annmarie Chiarini, an advocate for revenge porn victims, compared the recent arrests of women to the website ShesAHomewrecker.com, which has gained notoriety as a place where women target other women. The website encourages wives and girlfriends to post photos and contact information to "expose" women with whom their partners have cheated, though the photos are often not explicit.

“That site is the first I’d ever heard of women victimizing other women,” said Chiarini, who works for the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, which pushes for revenge porn laws and provides resources for the victims. “It is very unusual.”

Chiarini said she expects more arrests in coming months as the new laws prompt more victims to come forward.

“As a victim advocate, I hear from victims two, three or four times a day,” she told HuffPost. “The problem with revenge porn is much bigger than what we’re seeing through the arrests that have been reported.”

Under Virginia’s law, revenge porn is a misdemeanor offense. Craig, who will appear in court next month, faces up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine, Sgt. Edwards said.

Craig could not be reached for comment.

Before the law took effect in July, Edwards said his department had received several complaints that intimate photos had been stolen and plastered across the Internet without the individual's permission, but there was little the police could do. He said the arrest over the weekend “is what the law was designed for.”

Though revenge porn laws have led to arrests in Colorado, Maryland and Virginia in recent months, advocates for victims argue that more needs to be done. Victims describe an exhausting and embarrassing process of asking hundreds of websites to remove naked photos that they had originally sent privately to their exes, only to find that those photos have gone viral and spread to hundreds more websites.

Many websites are free to host nude images of revenge porn victims because the 1996 Communications Decency Act shields "interactive" sites from liability for user-generated content, according to legal experts. But in the wake of the recent celebrity hacking scandal, Congress is getting calls to amend that law to help revenge porn victims erase their embarrassing digital histories.

Chiarini said the new laws are changing public perception.

“Fewer people are blaming the victim, and more people are starting to see how this can really ruin a person’s life," she said.

CONVERSATIONS