Michelle Carter

Three years ago Michelle Carter, was a Taunton, Massachusetts teenager. Today, she is a 20 year-old young woman who yesterday was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter by a Massachusetts judge, who described her behavior as “reckless.”

Was her behavior reckless? A judge concluded it was. Through thousands of text messages, Ms. Carter’s behavior was a crime that ended in a single phone call and the death of her then boyfriend Conrad Roy.

Michelle Carter’s conduct was morally reprehensible. Some states criminalize the act of convincing people to commit suicide. Massachusetts has no law. Legally this is a grey area but why take the chance of someone taking their life because of you and why chance going to jail?

In July, 2014, eighteen year-old Conrad Roy died of carbon monoxide poisoning after locking himself in his truck. He did this because of the texts Michelle Carter sent him telling him to ‘kill himself.’ Carter admitted in texts that she took no action; she knew the location of the truck and did not notify Roy’s family or emergency services.

According to testimony, on July 12, 2014, the day of Roy’s suicide, Carter texted a classmate, “He just called me and there was a loud noise like a motor … I heard moaning … I stayed on the phone for like 20 minutes and that’s all I heard. … I think he just killed himself.”

In another text to a fellow student, she texted “I could’ve stopped him.” “He got out of the car … he was scared.”

Several of Michelle Carter’s classmates testified that Carter didn’t have many friends and pushed Roy to suicide to get more attention.

Prosecutors say that Roy was on the phone with Carter for 47 minutes while in his truck. There came a point where he told her he was getting out of the truck because he feared the suicide attempt was working. Carter texted that she “told him to get back in.”

Just days before, in another text message, Carter wrote “don’t be scared… You’re finally to be happy in heaven,” according to prosecutors.

Alternatively, Carter could have urged him to talk to his parents, go to an emergency room or contact a suicide prevention hotline.

Carter and Roy met in 2012 while visiting relatives in Florida but lived fairly close to each other Massachusetts. They communicated by text and email.

Michelle Carter was charged as a youthful offender, which means that even though she was a minor at the time of the incident, she was charged as an adult.

Her sentencing is set for Aug. 3. The maximum possible sentence is 20 years.

This tragic story should serve as a wake-up call for kids and teens who tell others to kill themselves. Not only is it a horrible thing to do, but when kids on the receiving end hear this command, some actually go through with it … just like Roy did.

Clearly anyone who tells someone to do this needs help, but so does the victim who obeys the command.

It’s tragic all the way around. Both of these young people needed help.

Youths should consider that by telling someone to ‘kill themselves’ that they can be arrested and could face jail time.

They should think about how very mean and cruel this is, not to mention extremely wrong!

If you don’t like someone, no need to befriend them and certainly wrong to harass them in any way, show acts of cruelty or give orders to ‘kill themself.’

If someone tells you to ‘kill yourself’ do not listen to them. Why would you listen to someone who is so cruel?

If you feel suicidal, don’t give in to your thoughts. Kids’ brains are not mature enough to understand that there is a tomorrow. You can feel bad for a few days and things can seem different in a few days. Seek help.

Never, ever listen to someone who tells you to take your life. As NY Jets Quarterback Bryce Petty recently told students, “You are beautifully and perfectly made.”

We all have bumps in the road which cause us pain, but consider that you have your entire future ahead of you. By obeying someone who tells you to die, you will never be able to fulfill your dreams and goals.

If you feel suicidal tell someone, go to a hospital emergency room. Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the GLBT National Youth Talkline at 1-800-246-PRIDE (1-800-246-7743)

Are Memes And Posts Worth Not Attending College?

Photo by EvgeniiAnd Fotolia

A few weeks ago, ten students blew their acceptances to Harvard University by posting horrific and insensitive memes on Facebook. The memes reported by the campus newspaper, the Harvard Crimson, mocked rape, child sex abuse and the Holocaust. Some joked that it was sexually gratifying to abuse children, while some targeted racial and ethnic groups.

One incoming Harvard freshman anonymously reported to the press that he started the “bourgeois teens” group which ultimately became a private, more “wild” meme messaging thread, called “General Fuckups.”

Why anyone would even think that these subjects would be funny is incomprehensible.

Once Harvard officials learned of the messaging group, they informed the offending students that their admission offers were being rescinded

Parents buy their children $600 phones and most never think to educate their children about being digitally responsible.

One would think that college bound students would know better than to be so incredibly insensitive knowing that rape, child abuse and racial slurs are not funny. Obviously, these ten didn’t think they would be caught, and certainly didn’t think their acceptances to Harvard would be revoked.

Was this being funny? Was this caused by the lost civility in our country?

So many lessons to learn here.

· Think before you post
· College admissions officers and future employers are looking at your social media posts
· Is your post really funny or is it a slur and insult to others? What is your goal for this and is it worth it?
· There are consequences for your actions whether online or in person

It’s important to know that once something goes on the Internet, it stays there. Of more critical note, is learning to be responsible online.

Your virtual exposure must be a priority. Most colleges and many employers have social media policies in place. They determine what is out of bounds according to their guidelines.

It’s fairly obvious that the ten offenders never considered that Harvard has these guideline in place, nor would their college career be affected. If they apply to other colleges…it’s likely that they might not be accepted due to their irresponsible online behavior.

Students may be book smart to get accepted to Harvard, but many don’t have the common sense to smart on the Internet.

Make your choices wisely!

Why ‘13 Reasons Why’ Shouldn’t Be Your Teen’s Binge

Credit NETFLIX

The show communicates to teens that if you are lost and not heard, your story will be heard after you’ve left this world.

With Netflix’s recently released teen series “13 Reasons Why” teens across the country are telling us how much they love this show. The buzz is tremendous.

Forbes Magazine offers some reasons why you should add 13 Reasons Why to your binge queue (followed by a few more reasons why it’s still not a perfect show.)
They say “it’s compelling, the characters are great, the way the show handles time is clever, the music is wonderful, it’s more than just a high school drama, there acting is top-notch, there’s nothing else like it on Netflix, and Hannah is an unreliable narrator. Having an unreliable narrator not only makes the mystery more interesting, it adds to the humanity of the characters.”

Here is how Forbes categorizes what isn’t right in the film: “There’s not enough humor,13 episodes is a stretch, sometimes the show feels too outlandish, they worry about the subject matter, mental illness is glossed over. For all its flaws, 13 Reasons Why is a lovingly produced, well-written and beautifully acted teen drama for all ages.”

I’ll accept Forbes’ two reasons which is the show is compelling and the acting is great. But parents need to talk to their teens and explain why “13 Reasons Why” shouldn’t be their binge!

Based on the book “13 Reasons Why” by Jay Asher, the fictional show opens with a teen suicide and the 13 tapes she (Hannah) left for her friends with listening instructions. It’s a flashback of Hannah while she was still alive and is on the lines of a murder mystery, with bullying, two rape scenes, grief, violence, mental illness and teen drinking.

The show is harmful to any teen who could be considering suicide.

“13 Reasons Why” does not offer solutions to teen problems. It does glamorize suicide and we already have enough teens who have taken their lives. The show communicates to teens that if you are lost and not heard, your story will be heard after you’ve left this world.

According to the CDC, suicide is the third leading cause of death among persons aged 10-14 and the second among persons aged 15-34 years old. And Child Trends reports that the proportion of high school students who report they have thought seriously about attempting suicide continued to rise in 2015 (to 18 percent), after having fallen substantially since the early 1990s (from 29 percent in 1991 to 14 percent in 2009).

Teens identify with people they see on TV and in movies. It’s also important to note that Hannah blames everyone else for her suicide. Suicide is not someone else’s fault. Most teen suicides are contagion behaviors.

Connecting suicide to bullying can be detrimental. I won’t say that all teen suicides aren’t due to bullying, but many result in mental health and other issues. By placing the blame solely on bullying, it takes away crucial risk factors of suicidal behavior that must be focused on.

“National and international research clearly indicates the very real impact and risk to harmful suicide exposure leading to increased risk and possible suicide contagion,” said Headspace national manager Kristen Douglas this week.

Ask any of us in this arena, and we all feel very strongly about how dangerous this show is.

Today, the Hollywood Reporter revealed that Netflix is close to renewing “13 Reasons Why.”

Allegedly, the series will end with a special 30-minute PSA called Beyond the Reasons, which features producers including Selena Gomez as well as the cast, doctors, advocates and psychologists offering insight on how to get help or assist someone in need.

This series is a great place to start conversations, but in no way is this show sending a positive message or solution to impressionable and vulnerable teens.

End the Hate: 20 Ways to Stand Up and Help Stomp Out Bullying

By Toni Birdsong on Oct 11, 2016

Bullying Prevention

No one deserves to be bullied. October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month and the perfect time to pause and educate your family on specific ways to help stop bullying online and off. Thanks to the Stomp Out Bullying movement, this month is packed with a variety of awareness events and tools to help parents, schools, and young people put an end to this devastating social epidemic.

According to the group, one in six students say they’ve either been the victim of some form of bullying or, witnessed others being bullied. And one in eight students has experienced bigotry and name calling. But what kind of behavior is considered harmless teasing and what dips into the realm of bullying? Let’s take a look:

Different Types of Bullying

Physical Bullying: This is the most obvious form of intimidation and can consist of kicking, hitting, biting, pinching, hair pulling, and making threats. A bully may threaten to punch you if you don’t give up your money, your lunch, etc.

Verbal Bullying: Words hurt. Verbal bullying often accompanies physical behavior. This can include name calling, spreading rumors, and persistent teasing.

Emotional Intimidation: You don’t have to be insulted or hit to be bullied. Emotional intimidation is closely related to both physical and verbal bullying. A bully may deliberately exclude you from a group activity such as a party or school outing.

Racist Bullying: Making racial slurs, spray painting graffiti, mocking the victim’s cultural customs, and making offensive gestures, is all a part of the act of racial bullying.Bullying Prevention

Sexual Bullying: This type of bullying often gets minimized or overlooked but is a problem. Sexual bullying is unwanted physical contact or abusive comments.

Cyberbullying: Because of technology’s primary role in our culture, one of the most common kinds of bullying today is cyberbullying. This is when one or a group of kids or teens uses technology (emails, Web sites, social media, chat rooms, instant messaging and texting) to torment, threaten, harass, humiliate, embarrass or target another person or group of people.

Hazing: Hazing is a ritualistic test and a task involving harassment, abuse or humiliation used as a way of initiating a person into a gang, club, military organization or another group. This can include physical (sometimes violent) or mental (possibly degrading) practices.

Anti-Gay Bullying. Nine out of 10 LGBT students reported being harassed and bullied last year. Over one-third of LGBT students are physically assaulted at school because their sexual orientation and gender identity are different than those of heterosexual students. Over half of all students report hearing homophobic remarks often at school. More than 30% reported missing at least a day of school in the past month out of fear for their personal safety.

According to a 2014 McAfee study, cyberbullying is on the rise with 87% of youth having witnessed cyberbullying due to appearance (72%) race or religion (26%) and sexuality (22%). Pretty startling is this sad stat: 52% of teens have engaged in offline physical fights because of something that ignited online.

20 ways kids can help stomp out bullying:

According to Stomp Out Bullying, kids can have an enormous impact on the bullying crisis. Whether they know the person being bullied or not, kids can stop standing by and STAND UP! To safely support a victim:
1.Don’t laugh
2.Don’t encourage the bully in any way
3.Stay at a safe distance and help the target get away
4.Don’t become an “audience” for the bully
5.Reach out in friendship to a bullying victim
6.Help the victim in any way you can
7.Support the victim in private
8.If you notice someone being isolated from others, invite them to join you
9.Include the victim in some of your activities
10.Tell an adult if you see bullying or are bullied
11.Encourage your school to participate in Bullying and Cyberbullying Prevention
12.Start a peer mentoring group at school
13.Raise awareness of bullying and cyberbullying prevention in your community
14.Teach friends about being tolerant
15.Ask your school to set up a private ballot box where kids who are being bullied can report it anonymously
16.Get someone to sponsor a conflict resolution team
17.Encourage school administrators to adopt Internet-use policies that address online hate, harassment, and pornography.
18.Create events in your school and community to raise anti-bullying Bullying Preventionawareness


19.Create bullying and cyberbullying prevention posters
20.Stand up and do something when you hear someone making jokes or comments about: Someone’s sexual identity, someone’s family member, someone’s weight, someone’s choice of dress, someone’s skin color, someone’s accent, or someone’s disability

For more creative ideas on how to be part of the anti-bullying solution, go to stompoutbullying.org. If you are an educator, parent, or student, you are in a powerful position to make a significant impact on this serious social crisis.

Signs your child may be a victim of bullying:
1.Looks anxious or upset if he or she receives a new text or alert on their phone.
2.Frequently gets headaches, nausea, or a stress-related illness. He or she increasingly asks to stay home from school or come home early from school.
3.Trouble sleeping and an increase in nightmares.
4.Becomes withdrawn, moody, angry or unwilling to discuss topics dealing with school, friends, or other peers.
5.Deletes or deactivates favorite social networks like Instagram or Facebook.
6.Suddenly loses his or her steady group of friends and refuses to talk about the details or place blame.
7.Decline in grades or a loss of interest in favorite hobbies, sports, or school clubs and activities.
8.Uses negative, hopeless, or suicidal references and may describe feelings as being lonely.
9.May begin to act out feelings of helplessness and frustration by bullying siblings or younger children in family’s social circles.
10.Tends to “lose” things like lunch money, electronics, or other expensive things bullies tend to take.

What to do if someone is bullying you:

Tell someone. Encourage your child to talk to a trusted adult. Many tweens and teens keep quiet when being bullied which often leads to more bullying and communicates to others that she is fair game for bullying. Encourage your child to come to you at the first sign of bullying or conflict online. Monitor his or her online circles and assess the tone of her online conversations.

Save all evidence. Print copies of messages and websites. Use the save feature on instant messages and take screen shots of posts or comments on social networks.

Report the abuse to the online platform, to school and/or police. Report the cyberbully to the social network in the Help section. If the perpetrator is another student, share evidence with the school counselor. Report the cyberbullying to the police or cyber crime unit in your area if the cyberbullying contains threats, intimidation or sexual exploitation.

The best defense against cyberbullying is a good offense, and that means doing whatever it takes to build and maintain open and honest communication with your child. While regularly conversing may not prevent cyberbullying, it does help you both effectively face challenges—together—as they arise.

The New York Jets and STOMP Out Bullying announced today that Sarah P. of Fort Lee High School has been named this week’s Jets Upstander of the Week.

When you see someone being bullied and/or cyberbullied and you help them, you stop being a bystander and become an Upstander!

September 23, 2016 — The New York Jets and STOMP Out Bullying announced today that Sarah P. of Fort Lee High School has been named this week’s Jets Upstander of the Week. New for 2016, the New York Jets will lead a new school initiative called “Jets Upstander of the Week.” For each of the 16 weeks during the season, the Jets will ask schools to submit a photo and description of a student that is an Upstander. The Jets will highlight one Upstander a week across their social media platforms and on the video boards during home games.

Sarah P. is currently a freshman at Fort Lee High School. As a student-athlete during her years at the Lewis F. Cole Middle School, she was a role model for other students. In addition, Sarah was an instrumental part of the school’s Student Ambassador Program which includes a select group of students dedicated to preventing disharmony and bias behavior, while helping to maintain cooperation and unity within the middle school student body.

Through the organization’s collaboration with STOMP Out Bullying, the Jets have provided educator prevention toolkits to 1,000 schools in the tri-state area at no cost, conducted an anti-bullying educator’s symposium, created awareness through a robust PSA campaign and annually host an anti-bullying awareness day at MetLife Stadium on game day.

The New York Jets take great pride in a long-standing, year-round commitment to our community. Programs funded by the New York Jets Foundation look to positively influence the lives of young men and women in the tri-state area by promoting fitness, supporting youth football and preventing bullying, particularly in disadvantaged communities. From launching football teams at urban high schools to urging students to be active for at least 60 minutes every day to fostering positive school environments, the New York Jets invest in programs that make a difference in the lives of others. In addition to our focus on youth development, the Jets support the efforts of the Alliance for Lupus Research and numerous established charitable organizations and causes sponsored by the NFL.

Another teen suicide has occurred because a young man was bullied.

On Thursday, Daniel’s life came to a tragic end when his sister discovered his body. Police later discovered a note where Daniel had written three haunting words: ‘I give up’.

Daniel’s heartbroken parents say Daniel gave up after years of being bullied at Holy Angels Catholic Academy in Bay Ridge. In fact, Daniel drafted a letter in July spelling out the unrelenting torture he says he received from classmates and teachers who didn’t listen to his cries for help.

To every kid who is being bullied … yes it’s incredibly painful. But that pain is NEVER worth taking your own life.

If Daniel hadn’t given up he would be celebrating his 14th birthday in two weeks. He would have gone to a new school and enjoyed a new football team. Now his dreams will never be realized.
For those who have taken their lives, we are so sorry that you were in such deep pain! And we send our condolences to your families who are in tragically deep pain.

It’s important for every kid to know that no matter how much pain you are in, no matter how long the bullying last, it doesn’t last forever.

I wish we could have spoken with Daniel and every other kid who has taken their life. Every one of them had dreams, hopes and bright futures.

As the founder of STOMP Out Bullying, I was bullied from first through sixth grades. I thought it would never end. But it did! I entered seventh grade being Ms. Popularity!

And look at some of the celebrities like Demi Lovato, Lance Bass, Sandra Bullock, Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, Tyra Banks, Kate Winslet, Robert Pattinson and yes – even the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton. If they had taken their lives none of these celebrities would be here living wonderful lives and certainly Kate Middleton would not be the Duchess of Cambridge.

As bad as it seems today, we urge all kids and teens to understand that your future can be different, you can be whatever you want to be. You don’t know when things will change. So while you’re feeling really bad, reach out for help. Tomorrow can look so different!

No one deserves to be bullied for any reason. NO MATTER™ what you look like, your beliefs, your race, your sexual orientation or gender … no one has the right to bully you.

We are ALL the same, we are ALL people and we must honor our differences and respect and celebrate our similarities … NO MATTER™!

A great way for you to deal with your bullies is to empower yourselves. Learn to use comebacks because they do work. Role play with someone if you’re shy. But please empower yourselves.

If someone calls you names or makes fun of you, never ignore it. What you can do is look the bully straight in the eyes and say “Whatever” and then walk away without any conversation. Look at them and laugh at them and do the same thing – walk away. Eventually the bully will see that you just don’t care!

For those who are bullies, your behavior is wrong and unacceptable. If you think that you’re popular or funny, you’re not! In fact, your behavior can cause much trouble in your life. There are consequences for hurting others and certainly causing them to take their lives.

When you hurt others, you are ultimately hurting yourself and the people who love you.

Focus on being kind, not because we’re telling you to be kind, but because it’s the right thing to do. Kindness takes you to places you would never imagine — why? Because you’re focusing your energy on others in a positive way and it comes back tenfold! NO MATTER™

Suicide Is Never The Answer

Bullying and Cyberbullying can be difficult — especially when it’s happening to you. It hurts! Sometimes it’s the most painful thing that can ever happen. But it’s NEVER worth taking your life!
Suicide is NEVER the answer! It ends all of your dreams, it’s permanent — you can’t take it back, it hurts the people who love you — and it doesn’t solve the problem that’s hurting you!

Whatever is hurting you so bad that you would even think of suicide has a solution. And that’s NOT suicide.

You have choices and it’s all about the choices you make … for yourself or your decision to help a friend!

Are you hurting as a result of being bullied or cyberbullied?
Do you know someone who is hurting as a result of being bullied or cyberbullied?

Here are the Warning Signs for Suicide:
• Threatening to hurt or kill oneself or talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself
• Looking for ways to kill oneself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means
• Talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide when these actions are out of the ordinary for the person
• Feeling hopeless
• Feeling rage or uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge
• Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities – seemingly without thinking
• Feeling trapped – like there’s no way out
• Increasing alcohol or drug use
• Withdrawing from friends, family, and society
• Feeling anxious, agitated, or unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
• Experiencing dramatic mood changes
• Seeing no reason for living or having no sense of purpose in life

HOW TO HELP A SUICIDAL FRIEND:
Listen: People who are suicidal people think that they’re not understood. They think no one is listening and that no one takes them seriously.

Don’t be afraid to talk to them about suicide: If someone is feeling depressed, you’re not telling them to think about suicide. It’s actually safer to talk about it so you know what they’re thinking!

Accept your friend’s feelings: Take them seriously. Don’t try to cheer them up, don’t make jokes. DO get them help!

Ask your friend if they have a suicide plan: If they’ve thought their suicide plan out well, you know it’s time to get IMMEDIATE help for them.

Remove dangerous objects: Look for razors, sleeping pills, guns, knives, ropes that can be used for strangulation and remove them IMMEDIATELY.

Tell a trusted adult: This is not a secret you should ever keep – no matter how much your friend swears you to secrecy! Don’t make secrecy deals with anyone who is suicidal and tell a trusted adult IMMEDIATELY!

Support your friend: Let them know you’re concerned and urge them to stick it out a little longer – because things CAN change. Tell them that depressed feelings dochange over time.

Make them understand that suicide is final–it cannot be changed.

DO NOT leave a person whom you feel is at “High Risk” for suicide alone, not even for a minute

If a person has told you they have suicidal feelings, have a plan, and have a time set, ALWAYS take them seriously. A person who is “high risk” for suicide should not be left alone. Keep talking to that person, stay with them or arrange for another party (someone who that person trusts and feels comfortable with) to stay with them.

Develop a plan for help with the person. If you cannot develop a plan and a suicide attempt is imminent call “911.”

There is help!
Talk to a trusted adult!
Or contact any of these organizations who can and will help you!
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)
Deaf Hotline: 1-800-799-4TTY (1-800-799-4889)
Yellow Ribbon 303-429-3530
Boystown Hotline1-800-448-3000
Covenant House Nineline 1-800-999-9999
GLBT National Youth Talkline 1-800-246-PRIDE (1-800-246-7743).

If you or someone you know is on the verge of suicide PLEASE call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or go to the nearest hospital emergency room IMMEDIATELY so you can get help!

Revenge Porn Research, Laws, and Help for Victims

By Sameer Hinduja, Cyberbullying Research Center

The latest research on sextortion – which is closely related – and discussed revenge porn two years ago when it started to ping our radars. Revenge porn – sometimes known as nonconsensual porn – has been defined as the act of distributing intimate photography through different means without the individual’s consent. While revenge is not always the motivating factor, this act seems to be increasingly utilized by the perpetrator as retaliation for romantic relationships going south, and is becoming more and more prominent with the growing popularity of sexting. Indeed, there are now an estimated 2,000 revenge porn web sites worldwide, and countless individuals have been repeatedly victimized through the availability of their intimate images in these venues.

Research on Revenge Porn
In terms of more specific numbers, the nonprofit Cyber Civil Rights Initiative conducts annual surveys to get a sense of the prevalence of – and experiences with – revenge porn victimization. However, it must be stated that their surveys are based on a convenience sample; they simply solicit respondents through a link on their own web page. This means that their numbers will be inflated because they are only collecting information from individuals who have chosen to visit a revenge porn help web site. As a consequence, it also means that we can’t make any sweeping generalizations and apply the findings to the population at large.

All of this said, of the 1,606 respondents from the ages of 18 to 30 in their most recent survey from 2015, 61% (about 980 people) said they had taken nude photos or videos of themselves and shared them with someone else, and 23% of respondents (361 people) had been victims of revenge porn. Among revenge porn victims, 93% reported significant emotional distress, while 82% reported suffering significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. Over half (51%) of victims indicated that they had even considered committing suicide. With regard to their occupation, 55% of respondents feared that their professional reputation would be tarnished because of revenge porn, while 39% said that the crime actually affected their professional life.

Revenge Porn Laws
To date, 34 states have laws against nonconsensual porn (and six have pending legislation), but a careful review illuminates a meaningful lack in uniformity and unambiguity (see our State Sexting Laws page for more information). Most outlaw the “dissemination of intimate images” because of the lack of consent from the affected party, while some states recognize the behavior as an act of cyberharassment and stalking, and prohibit it in that respect. Generally speaking, each state’s statute is different in classifying exactly what is unlawful. Using Florida law as an example (passed in November 2015, which makes the act a 1st degree misdemeanor and 3rd degree felony for repeat offenders), the state defines sexual cyberharassment as publishing a sexually explicit image of a person that conveys the personal identification information of the depicted person without the person’s consent and for the purpose of causing substantial emotional distress. New Jersey, the first state to pass a law against nonconsensual porn, considers it a 3rd degree invasion of privacy if someone discloses any image in which intimate parts of another are exposed, and defines “disclosure” as selling, manufacturing, giving, providing, mailing, delivering, or advertising an image. The state of Virginia categorizes their law under crimes involving morals and decency, and considers it the unlawful dissemination or sale of images of another. Specifically, they have ruled that anyone who disseminates or depicts another person who is totally nude, or is exposing genitals, pubic area, buttocks, or female breast when they are not authorized to do so is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

As evidenced above, state punishments for revenge porn vary by the weight put on the behavior, and a few more examples help to further illuminate the diversity of sanctions. For instance, California’s punishment is a $250 fee with no more than 48 hours of community service following the first and second offense, as they consider it a disorderly conduct misdemeanor. Subsequent offenses in California result in a $400 fee and imprisonment for 90 days in a county jail. Texas issues a temporary restraining order between the victim and perpetrator, and fines the criminal $500 if the action was not intentional, but $1,000 if the action was intentional. In Washington D.C., punishment for distribution of nonconsensual or revenge porn results in a misdemeanor, a fee, and the possibility of up to 180 days in prison. Nevada assigns the perpetrator with a category D felony, while Pennsylvania marks minors with a first degree misdemeanor and adults with a second degree misdemeanor.

No federal law has been established regarding nonconsensual porn, but the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative continues to work closely with state legislatures to pass laws against nonconsensual porn, and have been personally responsible for drafting over a dozen laws in various states. Currently, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Rhode Island, and South Carolina have bills pending in legislation. New Hampshire’s lawclassifies the behavior as a Class B felony and goes into effect on July 18th of this year. s also a new addition to states that have laws against nonconsensual porn. Minnesota’s law goes into effect a couple weeks later on August 1st, and considers it a Gross Misdemeanor. It is clear that revenge porn remains a top agenda item for legislators across the United States; the CCRI worked with California congresswoman Jackie Speier to proposal a federal law in this area in 2015 entitled the Intimate Privacy Protection Act. In my professional opinion, I believe it will come to pass after Congress and the powers that be sort out the First Amendment implications (for a great discussion on this, please see Pace Law Professor John Humbach’s paper on this from September 2014 entitled The Constitution and Revenge Porn). Major Internet companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google have (rightfully) taken a strong stance against the problem and have, for example, worked with California’s Attorney General to outline best practices to help remove revenge porn found on their networks.

Revenge Porn Victims Need Help
As Hinua mentioned in his write up on sextortion research a couple of weeks ago, we are definitely seeing an uptick in contacts to our site about the unauthorized dissemination of intimate images from victims. Hearing their stories is honestly heartbreaking. It might be easy for some to blame the targets for sending the image in the first place, but many images are obtained via hacking, secret recording, or other illicit means. Furthermore, even if the images were voluntarily sent, they were done so with an implied agreement of trust. All human relationships are built on trust, and everyone would do well to humbly and graciously remember the times when the trust they gave in good faith to someone else was callously broken and stomped on. That is exactly what has happened in these situations, and those victimized not only need our empathy, but our specific and tangible help. Below are some suggestions and avenues for recourse, and we’ll keep adding to this as more formal assistance becomes available.

With the help of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), victims of revenge porn are able to file a report for copyright infringement when they find that images of them have been reposted without permission. For example, Twitter and Tumblr provide an easy-to-use form towards this end, and we wish that other social media companies would do the same (Facebook’s is a little convoluted and complicated, in our opinion).UnDox.Me also provides a helpful guide for major social media sites to assist with the removal of copyrighted images and the upholding of copyright law. Victims can also utilize Domain Tools to find contact information about specific site hosts and domains and contact them directly about taking images down via their “abuse@” email address.

Another helpful resource is Without My Consent, a non-profit organization that focuses on providing advice and strategies to help combat online harassment. For example, they suggest that victims immediately work to create a physical portfolio (screenshots, printouts, downloads of videos, relevant texts or emails) of the dissemination and the events leading up to it for the purposes of evidence preservation and documentation. In addition, Without My Consent provides a Something Can Be Done! Guide, a detailed page entitled Conversations to Have With Your Lawyer, directions to obtain a Take Down, and steps to register a copyright on your images.

Registering your own copyright can provide substantial backing if a victim is considering filing a lawsuit for infringement, and can also give people the opportunity to censor out parts of their images under their copyright or their images in entirety. By copyrighting original works, people who involve themselves in taking nude photographs or videos can protect their property from being wrongly distributed or reposted by giving themselves the right to file for copyright infringement. This, then, expedites websites’ removal of problematic content, provides greater leverage against perpetrators, and provides an opportunity to collect damages ranging from $750 to $150,000 for each work that is infringed. However – and this is key- registration is not required for victims who wish to bring a lawsuit and decide to forego any claims of copyright. According to Without My Consent, victims can choose to rely on existing state law claims like invasion of privacy, confidentiality, emotional distress, harassment, and stalking. Whether to file for copyright or build a case around existing state laws should be decided in consultation with an attorney. This said, hiring a lawyer can cost thousands of dollars and is not a solution that many victims are able to pursue.

As revenge porn becomes more prevalent, a growing number of initiatives are thankfully being developed to give victims the emotional, social, legal, and practical help they need. Apart from the previously mentioned Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, Without My Consent, and UnDox.Me, we also recommend and appreciate the efforts of Crash Override Network, and HeartMob. These organizations provide guidance and general protocols for victims to follow, and some offer opportunities to either anonymously or publicly share personal stories to receive comfort, wisdom, and support from others. The Cyber Civil Rights Initiative provides a 24/7 crisis hotline reachable at 844-878-CCRI (2274), though it is only available to people living within the United States at the moment. Crash Override Network also provides a crisis helpline for those suffering from online abuse, although it is through email. Persons assisting with the helpline come from a range of backgrounds and include survivors, IT professionals, attorneys, and lawmakers – and so a wealth of expertise is available to come to the aid of individuals in the throes of victimization. Additionally, the Crash Override Network provides helpful advice on how to cope with the trauma of online abuse, how to disclose the information to family and employers, and how to protect oneself from future harm.

Finally, HeartMob is a growing community of concerned individuals who simply want to help anyone who is being harassed online – whether as a result of nonconsensual pornography, or otherwise. They state that “freedom of speech online doesn’t mean anything if people are not free from abuse and harassment,” and are constantly adding to the resources they make available to those who are being victimized in any capacity online. They also invite you to sign up and become a Heartmobber – someone who is willing and available to help those who contact the site for assistance.

It is not clear whether this phenomenon will grow in frequency and severity with the current and next generation of youth and young adults to whom social media use and picture/video sharing has largely been ubiquitous. Perhaps you know someone who has been victimized by revenge porn. Perhaps you are that person. Overall, we want those targeted to know that help is available, and that something can be done to cope with and overcome the trauma they may face. We also want those who might consider sharing or posting an unauthorized image or video of someone without their permission to fully comprehend the gravity of what they are about to do, and understand the weight of sanctions that they may face. More and more legislators and criminal justice personnel are viewing it in a similar light, and will continue to take a serious stance in their policies and punishment to respond to current victimization, and prevent future ones.

By Ross Ellis, founder and CEO, STOMP Out Bullying

Kids and teens live a 24/7 digital life. While it’s great for learning, entertainment and communicating with friends, your kids are on every popular social media site.

When you give them the keys to the car you expect them to be responsible drivers. When you give kids and teens a computer, tablet, iPhone or Droid, digital responsibility is a must!

Being as plugged in as they are, they face many challenges. Depending on their age, up to 43% of kids are harassed online. And according to Nielsen, the average teenager now sends 3,339 texts per month.

Digital drama affects youths greatly and it’s up to parents to help them understand these challenges and what to do about them. Educate them in knowing that once something is on the Internet, it stays there forever! EVERYTHING leaves a digital footprint.

Kids and teens can and will post anything. Raising responsible digital citizens begins with every parent, ensuring that their children behave responsibly with each keystroke or tap of the screen.

Talk to your children about posting online. Discuss being good “digital friends” by respecting personal information of friends, family and acquaintances and not sharing anything about others that is potentially embarrassing or hurtful.

Encourage them to be digital leaders by ensuring that they use safe and secure practices.

Help to DELETE DIGITAL DRAMA. Empower your children. They may deal with digital situations such as bullying, unwanted contacts or hurtful comments. Help them to develop responsible digital strategies. By not responding to negative posts, blocking a person or reporting bad online behavior can diffuse many hurtful and uncomfortable situations. Agree to work together if these steps fail.

Most social media sites require your child to be 13 years of age. Ensure that younger children do not have social media accounts.

Teach them to:
• Think before they post
• To be kind. If they have nothing nice to say online, they should say nothing at all.
• Nothing is private! They should assume that EVERYTHING they do online is copied, pasted and/or shared. If they want privacy, they should respect other’s privacy.
• Use privacy settings
• Do not steal the work of others. Credit them.

As parents it is imperative that you are not only digitally and Web savvy, but that you also know what sites your children visit, what they share and download and ensure that they engage in positive digital behavior.

The atrocious acts of bigotry and hatred that occurred in Orlando this past Sunday will impact our country forever. This attack was specifically targeted at the LGBT community. Lives will be forever changed, while many were taken. Attending a public event should never be something to fear – NO MATTER what someone’s sexual orientation or gender are. Yet the LGBT community was viciously targeted. The LGBT community is a group of people. And we must remember that – because at the end of the day we are all the same – we are all human beings!

Every day students from all walks of life, all sexual orientations and genders, reach out to us at STOMP Out Bullying because they feel hated. No one person should ever feel hated – NO MATTER! Everyone deserves to live in a world free of hatred and bigotry!

We have seen the outpouring of unity and solidarity for our neighbors in Orlando. Many want to help. Vigils across the country are being held in remembrance of the victims of the shooting and can be found at weareorlando.org. There you can find information about how best to help those directly impacted by the shooting.

Schools must reach out and help their students understand this horror. They can do so by visiting the American School Counselor Association website for a comprehensive list of crisis response and mental health resources for educators. Students who need someone to talk to can reach talk to our Volunteer HelpChat Counselors or you can reach out to the Trevor Project. Everyone at STOMP Out Bullying sends you thoughts, love and prayers!

Parents must know that their teens and tweens spend a lot of time watching TV, videos and movies, playing video games, reading, listening to music and checking social media, but do they know just how much time their children are spending every day on media?

It’s a constantly changing world. Digitally, your tweens and teens are in that world a lot more than you think.

A landmark report released by Common Sense Media finds that teenagers (ages 13-18) use an average of nine hours of entertainment media per day and that tweens (ages 8-12) use an average of six hours a day, not including time spent using media for school or homework.

If this surprises any parent, than you need to know bring your head out from all your busyness and understand what your tweens and teens are doing digitally and the amount of time they’re spending.
Although there is a digital equality gap between low-income kids who are less likely to have access to computers, tablets and smartphones than their wealthier peers, low-income kids who have digital access are more likely to spend more time on their devices than kids from more affluent families. Nevertheless, youths do spend a great deal of time with media.

The study showed that teen boys average 56 minutes a day playing video games, compared to girls 7 minutes and teen girls spend 40 minutes more a day than boys on social media.

Online videos, mobile gaming and social media have become very popular, watching TV and listening to music continue to be the media activities tweens and teens enjoy the most and do most often. Mobile devices now account for 41% of all screen time among tweens, and 46% among teens.

The study finds that devices are finding their way into study time for teens and tweens. Notably, at least half of teens say they often or sometimes watch TV (51%), use social networking (50%), text (60%) and listen to music (76%) while doing homework.

When it comes to social media alone, 13 year-olds check their accounts and texts a minimum of 100 times a day!

And that’s just checking their social media. The nine hours a day that tweens and teens spend on media is more time than they spend sleeping, or spending time with their parents. Those nine hours do not include time spent using media at school or doing homework.

The worst of social media

It’s frightening how much time kids are exposed to social media on a daily basis. The digital world which includes social media is 24/7 and shapes your children’s life in every way.

The Common Sense report, the first large-scale study to explore tweens and teens’ use of the full range of media is based on a national sample of more than 2,600 young people ages 8 to 18.

While that’s not a sampling of all teens across the country, understand that kids in this age hroup are adddicted to the Internet, social media and their digital devices.

There are definite gender differences when it comes to media habits of teens and tweens. Boys generally choose Xbox while girls choose Instagram.

Some 62% of teen boys say they enjoy playing video games. When it comes to using social media, 44% of teen girls say they enjoy it.

Despite all the new media that is available to tweens and teens — everything from Instagram to YouTube to Xbox, tweens and teens still rank watching TV and listening to music as the activities they enjoy and do every day.

Consider these stats: 53% of tweens — kids 8 to 12 — have their own tablet and 67% of teens have their own smartphones. Mobile devices account for 41% of all screen time for tweens and 46% for teens.

Tweens and teens prefer texting than having a conversation in person or looking somebody in the eye. This digital addiction removes empathy and can cause a real problem for our youth when it comes to how they will deal with society and human relationships and how they are evolving in a social, emotional context.


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