Teenagers

Under New Jersey Law, Victim of High School Revenge Porn Is the Worst Offender

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WCBS

The debate over the proper legal response to revenge porn is complicated by the fact that the victim generally has voluntarily shared nude photos of herself with the perpetrator at a time when it never occurred to her that they would one day be used against her by an angry ex-boyfriend. But when the people involved in the production and dissemination of such images are under 18, there is an easy legal answer: What would otherwise be a noncriminal act, although possibly a tort, is now clearly a felony, as two students at Passaic Valley High School in Little Falls, New Jersey, recently discovered.

WCBS reports that a 16-year-old boy texted eight nude pictures of his 17-year-old ex-girlfriend to new his new, 16-year-old girlfriend, who threatened to post the images on Instagram. When school officials got wind of this nastiness, they contacted police, who arrested the two 16-year-olds for distributing child porngraphy, a crime that carries a penalty of five to 10 years in prison. Since there were eight pictures and each can be counted as a separate offense, it looks like the maximum penalty would be 80 years. If convicted, the two teenagers would have to register as sex offenders, making them subject to reporting requirements, residence restrictions, and a stigma that can ruin careers and relationships.

If that seems like a disproprtionate response, consider this: As WCBS notes, "the 17-year-old girl who was in the photos could also potentially face charges." Assuming she took the photos of herself, making her a perpetrator as well as a victim, she is guilty of producing child pornography, which is punishable by five to 10 years in prison for each of the eight pictures. When she shared those photos with her boyfriend, she committed eight more felonies, each triggering the same five-to-10-year sentence. That's right: In the eyes of the law, the girl who was victimized by the other two students is a worse offender than they are. Naturally, she would also have to register as a sex offender if charged and convicted.

Since New Jersey's child pornography statute defines a child as anyone under 18, the three students could have avoided all of these criminal implications if the girl in the photos had been a year older. No wonder Viktor Joganow, Passaic Valley High School's superintendent, saw fit to warn parents via a recorded phone message that they should "make sure to remind their children that taking, sending, or sharing naked pictures of juveniles is a serious crime." Parents should take the warning to heart, since they clearly cannot count on school officials like Joganow to exercise appropriate discretion in deciding whether to transform a disciplinary matter into a life-ruining encounter with the criminal justice system.

More on overreactions to teen sexting here.

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  1. Can we please stop pretending that teenagers are just children and that 16 year olds sending nude pics to each other is the same as raping a 3 year old? Teenagers doing stuff like this is a completely natural and predictable thing. It would be nice if they thought it through a bit more, but criminalizing it isn’t helping anyone.

    1. But this is much worse than even that “confusion”. If the 3 YO masturbates in the background while a parent is taking video of hir sibling, the 3 YO is guilty of producing child porn!

  2. How long before hospitals are required to forward fingerprints and DNA swabs of newbords to the FBI for inclusion on the future offender registry?

    Come to think of it, scratch the future offender part. With the logic of the recent inheritable debt, those newborns are co-conspirators to nine months of their mother’s 3 felonies a day. That’s 810 counts plus another 270 conspiracy counts. Awesome! Next stop Proteus!

    1. Remember when videoing vaginal births was a fad? (Maybe it hasn’t (heh) passed yet.)

  3. I’m assuming that accidentally shooting oneself in NJ is now considered attempted murder?

    1. Suicide and attempts are illegal in many, if not most, jurisdictions in America.

      1. Uhh that hasn’t been the case for decades.

  4. “WCBS reports that a 16-year-old boy texted eight nude pictures of his 17-year-old ex-girlfriend to new his new, 16-year-old girlfriend,…”

    Can anyone explain why the guy would do something like that? As well as being unchivalrous, how is it good idea to send them to the new girlfriend? I really do not understand the thought process, if you can grace it with the description of “thinking”.

    1. Create a jealousy subtext with your new gf. She looks at it and thinks, “damn, he was banging hotties before me, he’ll bang hotties after me if I don’t treat him right.”

      1. The bigger subtext is: “I’m a jerk about my ex-gf, so I’ll probably be a jerk to you, too.”

  5. Americans’ irrationality toward nudity is an order of magnitude stupider when it involves children.

    The public demands nudity laws to protect people (especially children) from the ridicule and harassment they might suffer at the hands of the public. Absent the public’s irrational attitude toward nudity, nudity causes no harm. The problem isn’t with the perpetrators or the victims of this so-called crime. The problem is with the culture that attaches such an insane stigma to mere nudity.

    This is no less ridiculous than men demanding that women keep themselves covered to protect them from the behavior of men lusting after them.

    1. The problem is with the culture that attaches such an insane stigma to mere nudity.

      As opposed to what other cultures? The US is a bit more prudish than many, but this is a pretty common trait, outside of a few stone age tribes.

    2. And the weird thing is that not only was it not always so, it wasn’t so pretty recently.

      Just 30 yrs. ago, WNYC-TV (then part of the Municipal Broadcasting System of New York City) aired at least 3 times a 1-hour program consisting of 3 independently produced films focusing on children. The one in the middle was a documentary about the family of a dying leftist activist in the Boston area. One scene of that documentary had the boy & girl, in what looked to have been a staged performance, hanging from bannister railings naked and doing splits for the camera as what one of the chidren called “the penis & vagina dance”. The program was funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (or maybe Humanities). It’s hard to get more gov’t-approved content than federal funding & municipal airing!

      How did things get from “there” to “here”?

      1. Pedo witch hunt

    3. And the weird thing is that not only was it not always so, it wasn’t so pretty recently.

      Just 30 yrs. ago, WNYC-TV (then part of the Municipal Broadcasting System of New York City) aired at least 3 times a 1-hour program consisting of 3 independently produced films focusing on children. The one in the middle was a documentary about the family of a dying leftist activist in the Boston area. One scene of that documentary had the boy & girl, in what looked to have been a staged performance, hanging from bannister railings naked and doing splits for the camera as what one of the chidren called “the penis & vagina dance”. The program was funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (or maybe Humanities). It’s hard to get more gov’t-approved content than federal funding & municipal airing!

      How did things get from “there” to “here”?

      1. Society seems to be changing from a patriarchy to a matriarchy. One of the characteristics that is shifting is going from a fear of homosexuality to a fear of child molestation.

        1. Interesting. Could that have anything to do with greater tolerance for cannabis in exchange for less tolerance of tobacco? (I don’t think so, just throwing it out to see if you can fit it to a pattern. I’m usually fascinated by the possible “why”s of sociology.)

    4. The public demands nudity laws to protect people (especially children) from the ridicule and harassment they might suffer at the hands of the public. Absent the public’s irrational attitude toward nudity, nudity causes no harm.

      Wasn’t it the same way with hiring homosexuals for positions of trust? They couldn’t be hired because they could be blackmailed, and they could be blackmailed because they had to keep their homosexuality a secret, and they had to keep it a secret because if it was discovered they’d lose their job.

  6. I have a question:

    If they are minors, why are they being charged as adults?

    1. Prosecutor records aren’t built on a solid foundation of simple logic?

      Seriously this common sense criticism should invalidate prosecutions of “crimes” with these circumstances. Sadly, it won’t.

      1. This.

        I long for the day when a lawyer will plead, “If they’re adults, then the pictures can’t be ‘child’ pornography.”

        Unfortunately lawyers are too well-trained in FYTW.

    2. You know how when a teenager slaughters an entire family during a burglary and gets charged as an adult because the crime is so heinous? This is like that.

      1. Can’t tell if /sarc or not. Assuming sarc but still. The point is if the subject of the “porn” is a minor but also the photographer, it takes a huge amount of cognitive dissonance to claim she is a minor as the subject of the “porn” and an adult as the creator of it, when they happened simultaneously. That’s like saying every teenager that masturbates is a pedo.

        1. Yes, it was sarcasm.

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