How to Legally Handle Online Sexual Harassment

The U.S. Department of Justice statistics suggest that 40% (roughly 850,000) American adults are targets of cyber-stalking each year, along with young women enduring severe forms of it. Countless women who had been harassed online reported the experience as extremely disturbing, and even at times, life threatening. Cyber-stalking, at its most basic legal definition, is “ a repeated course of conduct that’s aimed at a person designed to cause emotional distress and fear,” although there can be more underlying and despicable reasons involved… i.e. bribery, physical harm, suicide…

No Exceptions

Anyone can be victim to it, including and most recently, Jennifer Lawrence who’s nude photos were hacked from her phone and posted online. She, like many of these fellow victims, fear for the safety of their career and public image. Even if the incident is viewed as a sex crime, it’s very hard for many others to determine it as such.

Slow Adoption

Today’s laws are notorious for their slow adaptation to technology, but most victims of online sexual harassment can address these attacks through the legal system, both in civil and criminal court. However, these channels don’t always provide the justice many of these individuals are seeking, and are incredibly expensive. So, unless you have the resources of an A-list star, the process will consume most of your time and money. Also, if you don’t have a clue on who the attacker is, you’re kinda outta luck when it comes to filing a proper case.

What to Do

If you or a loved one faces online sexual harassment online or on any social platforms, follow these steps before calling or venturing to your local police station to file a report:

  • Unfriend and Block user’s account(s) immediately.
  • Do Not Delete Your Contact History Right Away, and save important messages for evidence.
  • Report issue to social platform or website harassed on and ask to have images (if posted) to be removed along with the attackers account.
  • If successful, the platform should have removed the account and take down any photos of you.
  • If unsuccessful, find a lawyer and sue the platform for copyright violation- since copyright forms upon the creation of a work and generally it’s the photographer who holds the right to the image. Self-taken photos—nude or not—are owned by the photographer unless otherwise assigned, so a website displaying those photos without consent is violating copyright.
  • Finally, take a social media and website cleanse. Delete your accounts and move on.

Some states have already criminalized the distribution of sexual images, however, a reformation of laws is incredibly needed in today’s advanced world.

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