What recourse do I have if an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend posts nude photos of me online?
UPDATED: December 17, 2019
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Until a few years ago, the recourse one could take against having an explicit photo online without consent was limited to a civil tort claim. The good news is more states and social networking sites have enacted rules to address this situation. The most immediate relief may be obtained through the website your ex boyfriend, girlfriend, or ex-wife or husband, or other violator, chose to display nude photos of you. If the posting is in violation of the website’s user agreement and posting rules, the site will remove any embarrassing content upon proper verification by the victim.
The intent of your ex-boyfriend or girlfriend will determine which legal options you may pursue. If your ex-boyfriend or girlfriend has posted nude photos of you with intent to embarrass, intimidate, or harm you, the posting might constitute online harassment. Unfortunately, the rules and laws regarding online harassment are relatively new. Texas adopted its first online harassment law in 2009. To determine if your state has a similar law, visit your state’s official government website and search the legislative section for terms such as “online”, “posting”, and “harassment.” It may take more than one search to find the correct title.
Even if your state has not adopted a formal online harassment statute, other penal codes may apply. If the intent of your ex is simply to “relive the highlights” of a relationship that has ended, the charge may be improper distribution of visual images. If the intent of your ex is not clear, the fall-back charge would be distribution of obscene material while being reckless about who would be alarmed by the posting, namely you. To determine exactly which law applies to your situation, contact your local law enforcement agency. You may locate the official website for your local law enforcement agency by visiting Officer.com and selecting “agencies.” In most cases, if you file a complaint, this will be enough to motivate your ex-boyfriend or girlfriend to discontinue posting nude photos of you online.
If your state does not offer online harassment protection or your local law enforcement agency is not up to speed on recent harassment laws, you may have to resort to civil remedies. An attorney who specializes in internet communications can file a suit to prevent your ex- from posting any additional nude photos of you in the future. In cases involving married couples in the process of divorce, the restraining order can be worked into your final decree of divorce. Civil remedies do not have as much “bite” as criminal penalties and they tend to be more expensive, but they still provide you with several palatable options and remedies.