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'I will hunt you down and find you': Meet the New York solicitor who's tackling revenge porn

Strict new laws on revenge porn are set to come into effect in Ireland.

“THINK BEFORE YOU click… There are people like me who will hunt you down and find you.”

CGoldberg_LPRATT-9 Carrie Goldberg Source: Elizabeth Pratt

Carrie Goldberg is a solicitor based in New York who specialises in cases that deal with internet privacy and is one of the only ones in the state who deals with revenge porn.

She spoke to Colm Flynn for RTÉ’s Drivetime about the cases she deals with, and the extent of the problem of revenge porn she has found from her experience.

“No limit to the cruelty”

In terms of the methods, changing technology has meant that the problem continues to persist but people are always finding new ways to share explicit images as a means of revenge.

Goldberg explained: “I’m always shocked by the creative ways technology is being used to destroy people’s lives… There’s no limit to the cruelty that goes into the non-consensual sharing of images but also the response to it.”

The solicitor decided to move into this area of law after a short-term relationship turned sour, and she was subsequently threatened with the online publication of personal pictures.

Goldberg said: “I got out of a bad relationship, and I was the target of online and offline attack. After I got through that experience… I resolved to become the lawyer that I needed when I was suffering.”

When a client comes in to see her, they are often still just teenagers in secondary school who not only have to had to endure seeing intimate pictures of themselves being shared online but are getting relentlessly harassed about it too.

“When they come in to me, they are in the middle of the hurricane. They don’t know what to do. They’ve never thought about revenge porn. They probably don’t know the term.

They are in a state of shame, of shock, of fear. They are not just dealing with their own sexual privacy and exposure, they’re also dealing with the downstream harassment from the people who consume the revenge porn.

When an image is shared online, there is often not a lot that someone can do to stop it being shared unless it’s spotted early on, according to Goldberg.

She says that, while “it’s not impossible” to take down, an image or video shared on a mainstream porn site creates a major problem whereby an image can be downloaded and shared on a much wider scale.

Experiencing revenge porn herself led to her pursuing this career as she realised that legislation isn’t as strict on cases such as this as it would be in other areas.

She said: “My personal experience did provide this eureka moment where I realised there was no criminal protection here in the United States. Here, we have laws relating to the sharing of financial information, trade secrets and health information.

“When it comes to sexual privacy, we’re really very vulnerable. There’s not the same prioritisation of it on a legislative basis.”

Now, however, there is more protection for people who get images shared online without their permission.

Her advice to those who share these images online is “think before you click”. Goldberg concluded:

There are laws that will prosecute you, there are people like me who will hunt you down and find you.

Tough new laws here

Not an issue confined to the United States, the issue of revenge porn has hit the headlines in Ireland in recent years.

Strict new laws have been introduced, that will see those guilty of sharing explicit media facing jail time and an unlimited fine.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has received approval from the Cabinet over the Non Fatal Offences Bill which seeks to address the dissemination of revenge pornography and stalking.

The legal definition of harassment will also be extended to online fora and social media.

Under proposals by the Law Reform Commission, those guilty of sharing explicit images or videos of someone without their consent can be jailed for up to 12 months and fined €5,000 if dealt with at District Court level.

However, those found guilty of more serious forms of online harassment at the Circuit Court can face seven years in jail and unlimited fine.

Women’s Aid has said it is encouraged to hear that Fitzgerald will now draft a bill “providing for new and extended criminal offences in this area and it hopes that this will be a pivotal step in bringing Ireland’s laws into the 21st century”.

Margaret Martin, Director of Women’s Aid, said digital abuse in intimate relationships “is real, it is harmful and it must be treated as a serious crime”.

She added: “The most common form of digital abuse we hear about are damaging rumours being spread about women both personally and professionally and having sexually explicit images and posted online without consent (‘revenge pornography’).”

You can listen to Colm Flynn’s interview with Goldberg by clicking here.

Read: Revenge porn perpetrators to be jailed under new laws

Read: ‘It made me feel really dirty’ – Victim powerless against revenge porn attack

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