It’s not just work that has gone remote with the coronavirus pandemic. For many, relationships and dating have too.

In Brooklyn and across the country, people are sharing an increasing amount of intimate photos and videos in conversations through their devices. And, unfortunately, revenge porn – the unconsented sharing of those images – also has increased.

On Wednesday, New York State Attorney General Letitia James issued a warning to New Yorkers about the risks of sharing intimate images, given where they could end up.

In a press release, her office said there was an increasing number of people taking screenshots or recordings of their partners without their knowledge or consent, and then threatening to share these intimate images online – sometimes forcing partners to comply with certain demands.

Attorney General James said revenge porn was a vicious form of humiliation and control that disproportionately affected women– who made up 90% of victims– adding, her office would continue to fight the “cruel form of degradation.”

James issued a list of tips to those having intimate conversations online, urging people not to include identifying features in photos, including personal features like your face or tattoos, or anything that had professional or contact details, and to use dating apps with safety features and be sure to read terms and conditions.

She said her office would be working with local law enforcement to prosecute all individuals who engaged in revenge porn.

Since stay-at-home orders were issued in New York (and across much of the country) in March, dating websites have seen a large rise in users and messages sent. Although revenge porn was already a widespread issue before the pandemic, James said recent reports showed the abuse had dramatically increased during the pandemic with the increase in app usage.

Last year, the state passed a law criminalizing the publication or dissemination of revenge porn. Penalties under the law are up to a year in jail and civil damages for abusers, and the law empowers victims to seek a court order to remove the images online.

Executive director of Sanctuary for Families, which provides support to survivors of intimate partner violence in New York, Judy Harris Kluger said shelter-in-place orders meant more time at home, more time online, and, unfortunately, more instances of abuse by way of technology.

“These are extremely dangerous and isolating times for anyone experiencing gender-based violence. Especially during COVID-19, it is critical that all are able to safely navigate this ever-expanding virtual world,” she said.

She urged New Yorkers to learn how to minimize the potential for digital violence and where victims of cyber abuse can get help.

Sanctuary for Families has a free legal helpline at 212-349-6009, ext. 246.


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