Op Ed in the Baltimore Sun

A beautifully written Op Ed Piece by Susan Reimer:

 

“In fact, the law is aimed at the behavior of a particular group — Millennials who are open to exploring their sexuality with the aid of a cell phone camera, and who can reap the whirlwind if the relationship goes south. While the proponents hope the law will be a deterrent to posting those pictures in revenge, I am hoping this whole conversation will be a deterrent to taking them and sharing them in the first place. Find another way to stoke the fires of passion, people.

This point of view puts me dangerously close to blaming the victim, a young women caught in a nightmare that has caused some to consider suicide and others to act on that impulse. But we should be telling our daughters and our young women friends that they can’t count on the police, the courts or the legislature to protect them from the consequences of their own poor judgment.

Not because they don’t deserve that protection. They do. But because they should not be putting the tools to wound them so horribly into the hands of someone else in the generally unjustified hope that the state will have their back, no matter how safe and committed a relationship they believed themselves to be in.

The future is unknown and photos unleashed on the Internet can never be retrieved. And few are as vulnerable as those who love or as unpredictable as those who have loved and lost.

Have this conversation with the young women in your life.”
Read more: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-reimer-revenge-porn-20131030-7,0,6713438.column#ixzz2jIrAB02B

 

 

 

 

ABC 7: Revenge porn legislation introduced

ABC7 Video

Revenge porn legislation introduced

 

Follow this link to the broadcast from today’s press conference:

http://www.wjla.com/video/2013/10/revenge-porn-legislation-introduced.html

Press Conference Remarks

Law enforcement officials are charged with the duty to serve and protect. However, they can only do so as the laws within the sate they are employed will allow.

When I was a target of revenge porn, the anguish I felt over being betrayed, exposed, and put in danger was multiplied every time I was told, “There’s nothing we can do. No crime has been committed.” 

I decided to become an advocate and activist when a state trooper who worked my case explained the limits of the Maryland laws to me. I was frustrated and blurted out, “Well, then I’m going to change the laws.”

His reply was, “Annmarie, if you can do that, it would make my job a lot easier.”

So I set out to keep my word to the trooper who was so kind to me in the midst of my ordeal and wanted to, as he put it, “nail this guy to the wall for what he did to you.”

He was the first law enforcement official I encountered who showed genuine compassion. I credit that as much to his character as I do to his understanding of the laws and their limits.

There is no reason why victims of revenge porn should have their suffering exasperated by inadequate legislation that does not allow the local and state law enforcement officials to do their jobs well.  To protect and serve.

This legislation does not simply criminalize hurt feelings. It does not attack First Amendment rights. It is not a waste of the courts time, it is not an excuse for women who made stupid mistakes, and not just a bunch of feminist nonsense.

It is the state’s duty to see to it that their hired law enforcement officials are given the means to do their jobs. Enacting legislation that criminalizes nonconsensual pornography keeps the promise of the state that its citizens will certainly be protected and served. 

Victim Turned Activist

I’m just a bill

Yes, I’m only a bill.

And I’m sittin’ here on Capital Hill…

 

I never paid attention to local politics—or national politics for that matter. I knew the basics: The president, which countries we were mad at, which were mad at us, the price of gas, and when to file my taxes. It was enough. I was content.

Then an ex-boyfriend posted nude pictures of me on the Internet without my consent. Certain he had committed a crime, I went straight to the police. But the law enforcement officials I turned to for help only smirked, shrugged their shoulders, and sent me on my way. Except for one State Trooper who sadly explained the ways in which the Maryland laws prevented him from doing his job, and thus prevented him from helping me.  

“Then, I’ll change the laws.” I said.

“Annmarie,” He replied, “If you do that, it’ll make my job a lot easier.”

And so it began, my foray into politics, legislation, bill drafting and testifying. 

But first, a visit to YouTube was in order. All those years of not paying attention had left a rather large hole in my knowledge base. I couldn’t remember the legislative steps. I didn’t know where to start. I couldn’t remember the differences between House and Senate, legislature and congress. So I turned to the one resource that would set me on my path: School House Rock.

Rosa Parks spent years readying herself for the groundbreaking civil action she performed that forever changed a turbulent moment in history. She aligned herself with the NAACP, received training in activism in worker’s rights and racial equality, and launched what was called the strongest campaign for equal justice seen in a decade.  I readied myself by watching a cartoon from the 1970’s.     

Once I finished my refresher, I began what I considered the most difficult part of the process. I reached out to legislators with my story. 

I could barely talk about what happened with my friends and family without cringing with the shame that accompanies a crime of a sexual nature. In order to see the laws changed, I shared my story with strangers who may or may not care about my suffering. I made myself vulnerable. Since crimes of a sexual nature bring about very mixed reactions, I wanted the legislators to regard the photos as a piece of trust and intimacy that was used in a way completely opposite of its intended use: to hurt, to terrorize, to induce powerlessness, to destroy. 

My pictures were posted in 2010. At that time, the term Revenge Porn hadn’t yet been coined. Internet searches about nude pictures being posted returned results about online stalking and harassment. I opened the emails I would send to lawmakers with the sentence, “I am a victim of cyber harassment and stalking.” Then I briefly explained what happened avoiding that the harassment included nude pictures being posted. I was still feeling shame and couldn’t bring myself to reveal the true nature of the crime.

Within a week of sending my first email, I had a meeting with US Senator Mikulski’s legislative aid. I discussed what happened and the need for legislation. I presented examples of statutes and lots of statistics. I learned a lot and walked away feeling ready to approach senators in Maryland.

A few weeks later Senator Brochin called in response to the email I sent him. He invited me to help draft a bill to strengthen Maryland’s online stalking and harassment laws and asked me if I would testify in support of the bill.

On February 2, 2011, I testified before the Maryland General Assembly’s judicial committee in support of Senate bills 175 and 107. Senate bill 175 was passed into law on April 10th and went into effect on October 1st, 2011. The bill amended Maryland’s misuse of electronic mail law to include all forms of electronic communication. It was a step forward, but a small one. There are still amendments needed, and they shall come in time.

I was one voice among many who came to testify that day. But I was the only victim of online harassment and revenge porn. And while it was difficult to reveal the true nature of the crime to a crowded room, it was the first step on the road I now travel as a victim advocate.   

Since the bill was passed, I have aligned myself with a coalition of powerful women who share my dedication to seeing legislation that makes revenge porn a crime passed in all 50 states.  We are advocates, activists and legal researchers. I still face some of the fears I did the day I first brought my case to law enforcement, but I have embraced my role as the voice for those who have not yet found their voices. And I will speak up.

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