“Revenge porn” is usually posted by an ex-boyfriend, not by your grade-school friend. But apparently old friendships die hard.
This Wednesday, police in Riverside, Illinois charged Stephanie A. Kaczmarek, 38, with unlawfully disseminating private sexual images of a childhood friend. Police announced the arrest in a press release the following day.
Kaczmarek and the unnamed 34-year-old female victim had been friends since grade school but, as Riverside Police Chief Thomas Weitzel noted, “their friendship had soured over dating issues.”
On March 5th, the victim told officers that she had found topless photos of herself posted on Snapchat and Facebook without her consent. Then she received a threatening voicemail from someone who said, “There are a million more like this out in public.”
The explicit photos were also being posted on public websites and sent directly via e-mail to the victim’s family and “several other people throughout Illinois,” according to the press release.
Detectives spent nearly two weeks collecting electronic evidence so they could prosecute what would have otherwise been a difficult case. Illinois is one of the 26 states that has a special “revenge porn” statute. Disseminating images of a person’s private parts online without consent—including photos of a woman’s “partially or fully exposed nipple”—is treated as a Class 4 felony within the state.
Illinois’ revenge porn law, which took effect last June, is particularly robust. In an interview with The Daily Beast, Carrie Goldberg, a volunteer attorney for the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative’s End Revenge Porn initiative, held up Illinois a model for all other states to follow.
In contrast to other states, Illinois’ revenge porn law includes sexually explicit selfies, disregards the motive for posting the images, and provides a harsh penalty for offenders. It has been called “the country’s strongest anti-revenge-porn legislation yet.”
If Kaczmarek is indeed guilty of posting her grade school friend’s topless photos all over the Internet, she picked the wrong state to do it in.
Even with strict laws, revenge porn cases still require special care to prosecute. The Riverside Police Department had recently received special digital forensics training and equipment to handle these difficult “revenge porn” cases.
“This training and equipment played a vital role in taking the offender into custody and obtaining felony charges,” said Chief Weitzel.
Kaczmarek’s case is unusual because most perpetrators of revenge porn are male ex-partners of the victim. According to the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, 90 percent of revenge porn victims are women and one in ten ex-partners have threatened to expose risqué images. An ex-boyfriend posting an explicit picture of a woman is by far the most common dynamic.
But revenge porn can also affect male victims and, as Kaczmarek’s alleged behavior would suggest, it can be perpetrated by people who are not romantic exes. Indeed, the Illinois statute does not specify the gender of a victim nor does it require the victim and the perpetrator to have had a prior romantic relationship.
More details of the case will follow. WFLD reports that the amount of her bail is unknown. For now, her arrest stands as a cautionary tale to choose your friends wisely.