Houston woman wins $500,000 in 'revenge porn' lawsuit

The woman says her ex-boyfriend uploaded private moments to YouTube and other sites after a bad breakup
February 27, 2014 2:25:24 AM PST
A woman says that what she thought were private moments and photographs shared between her and her now ex-boyfriend ended up plastered on the Internet, so she took him to court and won. Now, her case could help spur a change in Texas law.

This phenomenon, called "revenge porn," usually happens after a bad breakup -- someone posts naked photos or videos of an ex on the Internet for the world to see.

"I loved him. I thought I could completely trust him," said a woman we're just identifying as "Rosie."

Rosie's young long-distance romance lasted seven years. For part of it, she shared intimate moments with photos and Skype chats.

"If I ever sent him a picture, I asked him to delete it right away. And he promised me that he did," she said.

Only after their breakup did Rosie learn that he didn't. He recorded those chats, without her permission.

"He started threatening me, blackmailing me with the pictures and video, which I didn't know he recorded," Rosie said.

Videos were uploaded to YouTube and other sites. Her private moments became very public.

"He would update me on how many people had seen it, or downloaded it," she said. "It's humiliating. It's devastating."

There's no law against revenge porn in Texas and, without a crime, police couldn't help Rosie.

"Any person who uses personal confidential info obtained on the basis of trust to hurt, humiliate [or] go after other people, I think should be punished," said her attorney, Joseph Mathew.

Mathew argued her case in civil court this month and a Harris County jury awarded her a half-million dollars -- the largest revenge porn verdict in the country.

"It's happening all across the nation, and it's happening to many young people," Mathew said.

Two state lawmakers are working on a bill that would make revenge porn illegal in Texas, but critics say criminalizing it may violate the First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

"If you allow the state or federal government to restrict your speech in one instance, it could expand and get more restrictive over other matters and nobody wants that," said KTRK legal analyst Joel Androphy.

What Rosie wants is piece of mind for herself and other women.

"This completely changed my life," she said. "I don't want anyone to go through what I went through."

Revenge porn is illegal in New Jersey and California, and other states are following suit. The attorney for Rosie's ex-boyfriend says he plans to appeal the verdict.

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