Where we’ve helped
Below are some illustrative cases drawn from our work. Facts and identities have been changed to preserve client confidentiality, except for the Chrissy Chambers case which is public. We’ve chosen them not only to show what we can do, but also to remind you that:
- You are not the only one. Non-consensual pornography and other forms of online abuse are, unfortunately, very common. Tens of millions of people in virtually every country, from many backgrounds, have been affected by this global scourge.
- You are not at fault. Being betrayed by someone you cared about, being coerced into providing intimate content, or being filmed or hacked without your knowledge is not a crime of your making. The person who is sharing, or threatening to share, your intimate images and other personal information without your consent is the one doing something very wrong.
- You are not powerless. Non-consensual pornography and other forms of online abuse and coercion are illegal in more than 20 countries, including the UK. Perpetrators may face jail time and other fines. Other laws may allow you to sue the perpetrator for damages.
PRIOR RESULTS DO NOT GUARANTEE A SIMILAR OUTCOME. RESULTS DEPEND ON A VARIETY OF FACTORS UNIQUE TO EACH CASE.
Chrissy Chambers: A Landmark UK Case
Chrissy Chambers is a well-known YouTube star. In 2009, Chrissy’s then-boyfriend convinced her to drink to excess, and when she was incapacitated, forced himself on her. He videotaped the sexual assault, of which she had no memory. In 2011, they were no longer together and he was living in the UK. He uploaded the videos he secretly recorded to a major porn site and sent out links to the videos to Chrissy’s personal and professional network. The videos eventually spread to at least 37 different porn sites and were viewed hundreds of thousands of times.
One viewer commented that “Chrissy is a slut,” and that was mild compared to most. Her YouTube fans, many of whom were adolescent girls who viewed her as a role model, felt betrayed and angry. Chrissy lost followers and began drinking heavily. She suffered from intense nightmares and experienced extreme anxiety around men; eventually, she was diagnosed with PTSD.
Chrissy initially went to the police in Atlanta, where she lived, and was told they could not help because the crime took place in England, where the videos were uploaded. In 2013, she approached us.
Though we had been advocating to make non-consensual pornography a crime in the UK, the law was not yet in place. We tried to convince the Crown Protection Service (CPS) to try this as a criminal case. Citing the lack of a non-consensual pornography law, the CPS declined.
We then sued Chrissy’s perpetrator in the High Court of Justice. We were breaking new legal ground. Ultimately, we created a novel approach based on a combination of privacy and harassment laws.
In the end, Chrissy obtained a significant financial settlement and an apology. She was also granted the copyrights on the videos, which gave her more leverage to demand that porn sites take them down. We continued to work on her behalf to get the porn sites to remove her videos. In an unusually happy note, when her settlement was announced on the steps of the High Court, Chrissy proposed marriage to her now wife, Bria Kam. You can read more about Chrissy’s case here.
A Tinder chat goes awry
Steve, who lived in the UK, reached out to Adam, a Canadian, through Tinder. Steve claimed he was planning a trip to Canada and was looking to connect with Canadian men before he arrived. The two had several chats and eventually exchanged intimate photos. After a while, the conversation tapered off. Adam moved on.
Back in the UK, Steve became enraged, believing that Adam had rejected him. He decided to take revenge through social media sites by creating fake LinkedIn accounts with Adam’s intimate photos, and then using Facebook and Instagram to send links to these profiles to Adam’s family and friends.
Ultimately, Adam’s employer, professional connections, and potential future employers saw the fake accounts and their intimate content, putting his job at risk and harming his reputation. He was also harassed by online strangers who figured out his contact details from Steve’s posts and demanded additional intimate photographs.
When Adam discovered Steve was behind the accounts and confronted him via email, Steve not only threatened to create more profiles but also to physically attack him. After Adam engaged us, we collected a record of the online abuse and contacted the social media sites to remove the content.
We quickly sent Steve a cease and desist letter that explained the possible criminal and civil penalties he was facing and said we would take legal action unless he stopped his aggression against Adam. Steve threatened us too, but stopped bothering Adam.
A third party is the harasser
When Jane was temporarily transferred overseas, she met and started a relationship with another journalist, Ben. While they were seeing each other, Ben asked Jane for intimate photos, which she provided. When Jane returned home, she learned that Ben had kept secret from her that he was married to a woman named Emily.
Emily found Jane’s intimate photos on Ben’s phone and not only began to harass Jane online, but also created a closed Facebook group and invited Jane’s friends. Then, she posted Jane’s intimate photos to the group. Jane engaged us to help.
We determined that it would be more effective to include Emily and Ben in any legal correspondence, as they both had some responsibility for the unauthorized distribution of Jane’s images. Our cease and desist letter to the couple resulted in immediate compliance, and all photos were removed.
Online dating turns into dangerous doxxing
Natasha, an American, dated Lee, a British man, when she was in her early twenties. Geographically far apart, they often engaged in video sex over Skype. Natasha didn’t realize it, but Lee was covertly recording these sessions.
After Natasha eventually ended the relationship, Lee uploaded their intimate sessions to porn sites. He also created an online ad that provided Natasha’s name and full address and solicited volunteers to go to her house and rape her. Someone actually responded to the ad and went to Natasha’s home to rape her, but thankfully was stopped. When Natasha confronted Lee, he said the ad was a “joke.”
Natasha had a strong case and we advised her on the range of legal options available, but she concluded she simply preferred to move on with her life. (We will never pressure clients to move forward with legal action; it’s important that clients do what’s right for them).
Sextortion across international borders
Fiona, an American, spent time in a foreign country and while there dated a local man, John. The relationship, in which they exchanged intimate photos, ended when she returned home.
John then sent emails and social media messages to Fiona and her family threatening to sell her photos to porn sites unless they paid him. He sent hundreds of these messages, a constant barrage of communications that caused severe distress to Fiona and her family.
Fortunately, his actions were against the law in his country. We partnered with a law firm there to serve an official notice saying that he would face criminal charges if he carried through with his threats, along with our own cease and desist letter laying out the actions we would take if he persisted in his harassment. His sextortion ended.
A father called us after his teenage son had wired $100 overseas in a panic to blackmailers, who were demanding more money. His son had been masturbating on camera with someone he met online. As soon as the session was over, the son received a message threatening to send the video to all of his friends and family unless he wired money. Blackmail operations like this now work on an industrial scale because the internet makes it so easy to send videos and money around the world. We advised not to send any more money. In our experience, this kind of blackmailer will just continue to demand more, but when ignored, typically moves on to find easier targets. The boy did not hear from the blackmailers again.