Most laws were written before people started texting naked pictures of each other on their phones. No one had heard of so-called revenge porn until around 2010, when the controversial website “Is Anyone Up?” launched, allowing users to upload sexually explicit images of former romantic partners. That site ceased operation just two years after it started, but revenge porn is now more widespread than ever. So widespread, in fact, that several states (Virginia included) have decided that existing laws against copyright infringement, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and bullying were not offering victims sufficient protection. In Virginia, revenge porn is now a crime, as well as a civil cause of action for which legal remedies are available.
Under Virginia Code § 8.01-40.4, victims can sue for compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees. Injunctive relief may also be available. But what kind of financial recovery can vicitms expect to receive? How does one measure the emotional harm suffered as a result of sexual cyberbullying? If you bring a lawsuit and win, will the rewards outweigh the uncomforable and expensive process of open-to-the-public litigation? These are difficult questions to answer because–at least here in Virginia–few (if any) civil actions have been tried to verdict under the new revenge porn statute. But looking to some other jurisdictions may provide a clue as to what kinds of damage awards you might expect here in Virginia.