CT college student leading movement, founding march against revenge porn

DANBURY – In between her classes at Western Connecticut State University, Leah Juliett is starting a movement. The 20-year-old is single handedly fighting to end revenge porn starting with a march this weekend in New York City.

Revenge porn is the sharing of sexually explicit images online without a person’s consent with the purpose of shaming, exploiting or extorting its victims.

Juliett, 20, is a victim of revenge porn herself and said it continues to affect her every day of her life.

“Not only do people not know what revenge porn is, but there is an immense lack of legislation, there is an incredible stigma and taboo about the issue,” Juliett said.

When she was 14 years old and a student at a Connecticut high school, a boy asked Juliett to send him intimate photos. She said at the time she was struggling with her own queer identity and felt pressure to do what he said, so she sent him four nude photos.

“I felt the need to impress him and follow through on what he wanted me to do,” Juliett said.

But when she stopped doing what he wanted, he took revenge. He shared the photos with other boys in her high school and posted them online on an anonymous image board for the world to see.

“I noticed that people started looking at me differently. They sort of looked at me in the hallways as if they had seen me naked because they had,” said Juliett.

“Eventually several people from different school districts approached me online and told me that they had seen my nude photos. That’s when I knew that they were out of control. They had gone beyond the bubble of my town.”

Immediately after, the once bold teenager fell silent.

She said, “That was probably the hardest day of my life when I found that out. I was someone who was always interested in leadership and pageantry and community involvement and I realized in order to keep this quiet and to maintain dignity within myself, I would have to pull myself out of everything that I was involved in and quiet my voice so as to not give him any reason to further exploit me.”

Now she’s using her voice to tell her story on her own terms and to create social and legislative change for revenge porn victims.

“I want to be a revenge porn advocate and lawyer my entire life,” said Juliett, who is majoring in Political Science.

There is currently no federal revenge-porn law. Thirty-five states and Washington, D.C., have enacted state laws against it, but online-harassment laws (which include revenge porn) are notoriously weak and rarely match the damage revenge porn creates. For some victims, the only way to get their pictures off the internet has been to copyright their own naked bodies and sue on intellectual-property grounds.

Connecticut’s revenge porn law was passed in 2015 making the crime a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison, a fine of up to $2,000, or both. Juliett believes the law should be stricter.

She said, “This is something that has affected my life every single day ever since it happened and if that individual is only going to be punished with a year in jail then I do not think he will ever learn his lesson.”

Her goals for the March Against Revenge Porn are to create a community for victims and allies, fight to criminalize revenge pornography on the federal level and to educate young people about their cyber civil rights.

She says the march and the social media campaign that goes along with it is just the beginning.

“I believe that 20-30 years from now this will be something that we as a community, as a country, will be 100% together in acknowledging that cybercrimes and physical crimes need to be combated the exact same way,” Juliett said.

The March Against Revenge Porn is on Saturday, April 1 in New York City. They will march across the Brooklyn Bridge then rally at City Hall Plaza.