Sexting and Teen Dating Violence: New California Law Helps Protect Survivors of Non-consensual Pornography

by Shaena Spoor, Social Media Volunteer

I can recall a time in middle school where a group of giggling girls huddled around their friend to look at a nude photo someone had sent. It was pretty much accepted that if somebody obtained a nude or partially nude photo that it would be shared frivolously amongst peers. I didn’t think much of it at 13 years old, but I now understand the deeper implications of sharing others’ private photos or videos without their permission. In today’s society, it has become commonplace to have various technologies right at your fingertips, making it easy to communicate instantaneously. Sexting, sending someone sexually explicit photographs or messages via cell phone, has become a recurrent, normalized, dating practice in this age of technology. This is particularly true with teenagers. A recent study indicated that 1 in 5 teens admitted to engaging in sexting.

But, what happens when sexts (the explicit material sent via sexting) are distributed by the recipient without consent from the person who sent them? Did you know that teen sexting is illegal? Though specific state laws vary, the PROTECT Act, a federal law established in 2003, prohibits obtaining or producing sexually explicit or nude material of a minor. Such material falls under child pornography and anyone distributing it could be forced to register as a sex offender. Most teenagers are unaware of this law.

Teen sexting can be damaging in a myriad of ways. Not only can sexts be a component in bullying and harassment by peers, but can also be a tool used to maintain power and control in an abusive relationship. Data collected in 2008 indicated one in three adolescent females in the U.S. had encountered physical, emotional and/or verbal abuse from a romantic partner. It is also not uncommon for teens to feel pressured to send explicit photos to their partners. For example, teens might fear that refusing to send a nude picture might anger their partner. Or, the partner might make statements like, “you would send it if you loved me.” One study showed that 51% of teenage girls who sent sexually suggestive photos felt pressured to do so. Once the abusive partner has a hold of the photos/videos, the abuser can retain control of the survivor by threatening to share it on social media. In the event of a break-up, the abuser may also distribute the explicit material to get revenge and humiliate the survivor. The fact that this material is out there floating in cyberspace, and accessible by anyone can serve as a potential detriment that follows the survivor into their personal and professional lives. This type of sexual abuse is often referred to as “revenge porn.” The Cyber Civil Rights Initiative describes it as “the distribution of nude/sexually explicit photos and/or videos of an individual without their consent. Revenge porn, sometimes called cyber-rape or non-consensual pornography, is usually posted by a scorned ex-lover or friend, in order to seek revenge after a relationship has gone sour.” It becomes particularly dangerous for the target if this person’s personal information is attached to the photos.

2012-2013 Statistics on Revenge Porn

Until recently, there was little to no protection for survivors of non-consensual pornography. After all, perpetrators are afforded the anonymity of sitting behind their computer screens. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act implemented in 1998 made posting or sharing any type of digital media not belonging to you against the law. However, this law was not designed specifically with revenge porn in mind as it focuses primarily on copyright infringement. In January 2014, new penal codes were added in California to criminalize the non-consensual distribution of any nude or sexually explicit photos regardless of whether the photo was taken by the perpetrator or the survivor. This certainly a step forward in protecting survivors being controlled by such threats of non-consensual pornography.

If you or someone you know fears that nude photos of them were distributed without their consent, here are some additional resources that may help:

End Revenge Porn

Digital Millenium Copyright Act

Cyber Civil Rights Initiative

Women Against Revenge Porn

Without My Consent

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W.O.M.A.N., Inc. Staff Highlight: Joy LeRoy

1) How long have you been working at W.O.M.A.N., Inc.?

I completed the forty-hour training in March of 2013 and began volunteering on the support line shortly thereafter. At the beginning of September 2014, I was offered a paid position

2) What do you do at W.O.M.A.N., Inc.?

I am the Support Line Program assistant, so I handle scheduling advocates for coverage for the support line and I still take support line shifts.
3) How did you come into this profession?

I took a few women’s studies classes at City College of San Francisco and one of the classes required me to volunteer at a CBO or community based organization such as W.O.M.A.N., Inc. I thought that I had missed the deadline to participate in the forty-hour training so I had resigned myself to being a short-term volunteer, but when I came in for my interview I was asked if I wanted to attend the training and become an actual volunteer. I gladly accepted and I’ve been a volunteering ever since. Then in September I was offered a staff position, which I saw as an opportunity to become more involved and knowledgeable about W.O.M.A.N., Inc. and the work that we do.

4) What are you looking forward to as W.O.M.A.N., Inc. continues to grow?

I look forward to being able to find survivors from any background resources to help them be safer, happier, and free from violence!

5) What do you enjoy most about working at W.O.M.A.N., Inc.?

The thing I enjoy the most about working at W.O.M.A.N., Inc. is the freedom I feel to be myself!

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Meet W.O.M.A.N., Inc.’s New Support Line Program Assistants

W.O.M.A.N., Inc.’s 24-hour support line receives thousands of calls each year and it’s the program that most volunteers choose to volunteer in at our agency.  The coordination alone that goes into scheduling a 24-hour support line takes quite a bit of time.  When my title was Crisis Line Supervisor, I would coordinate the support line and schedule and train new volunteers for the program, but I didn’t have much time to do anything else. Soon the Executive Director Intern, Tania, began helping me with coordinating the support line schedule. Tania later became the Program Assistant, where her job duties included support line scheduling, development, and administration work. She definitely did a lot for us including, eventually taking over all scheduling for the support line.

As of July 1, Tania transitioned from W.O.M.A.N., Inc. to pursue some life goals and that’s when Joy and Stephanie came into the picture.  Joy and Stephanie both began as volunteers, then were invited to become paid support line advocates.  I was confident bringing them on as Support Line program assistants because after working with them for a couple of years I was confident with their skills, and I have a great connection with both of them. One skill required for coordinating the Support Line is attention to detail, which they both have. Besides coordinating the support line schedule which includes communicating with volunteers, paid advocates, and the answering service, Joy and Stephanie are supporting me with program trainings, agency daily operations, and administration work.

I’m so excited to have them support the line as well as the organization.  Thanks for joining W.O.M.A.N., Inc.

~ Mary Martinez, Peer Services Manager

To learn more about Joy, click here

To learn more about Stephanie, click here

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Your Pet Could Be a Star!

Kevin Slattery shares a photo of his four kids, DeRosa, Doris, Davis, & Dempsey

Does your pet have star potential? Are you eager to share that adorable, furry (or feathered… or scaly… or slimy) face with the world? Are you passionate about raising awareness for domestic violence and helping an organization that empowers domestic abuse survivors to live peaceful, violence-free lives?

Then we want YOU and your progressive pet to be featured in our 2015 W.O.M.A.N., Inc. Pet Calendar! This calendar idea was born out of the same sentiment that inspired our Doggie Walk Event: that not only are cases of pet abuse and domestic abuse closely correlated, but that pets make great companions for the self-care, recovery, and healing of domestic abuse survivors. According to the American Humane Association, 71% of pet-owning survivors entering shelters reported abuse of their family pets. Most incidents of pet abuse occur in the presence of the survivor and/or their children, as an attempt to coerce and control the survivor. For many domestic violence survivors, pets provide strong emotional support and comfort.

To kick off October as Domestic Violence Awareness month, we want to celebrate the WI-LOGO - Final -- Good version for uploadswonderful relationship between loving pet-owners and their animal friends, and we want you to participate! W.O.M.A.N., Inc. will be hosting the Pet Calendar Competition, allowing the community to send in their pet photos to be featured in our 2015 W.O.M.A.N., Inc. Pet Calendar! For extra points, include the W.O.M.A.N., Inc. Logo into your pet picture! (It might give your photo better odds of being selected)!

There are only 5 spots available, so if you’re interested in having your pet featured in our 2015 Calendar, email Mariya Taher at with a photo and a 25 to 50 word blip about why you love your furry companion.

p.s. make sure to visit our W.O.M.A.N., Inc. Facebook page to see if your furry friend’s picture is being shared with the world! 

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Staff Highlight: Stephanie Colorado

1) How long have you been working at W.O.M.A.N., Inc.?

WI Support Line Program Assistant Stephanie

WI Support Line Program Assistant Stephanie

I first became involved with W.O.M.A.N., Inc. during their summer volunteer training in 2012.

2) What do you do at W.O.M.A.N., Inc.?

For now, I am currently the Co-Interim Latina Program Manager, where I am able to work with monolingual survivors through case management and any support they might need. I am also Co-Support Line Assistant as well Backup Advocate for the support line, which includes helping survivors through the 24-hour support line (1-415-864-4777)

3) How did you come into this profession?

I came into this profession with wanting to help people in the community. I wanted to be able to provide support for people of my community as well as learning more about Domestic Violence and how to best help survivors along the way.

4) What are you looking forward to as W.O.M.A.N., Inc. continues to grow?

As W.O.M.A.N., Inc. grows, I am looking forward to how they can educate others around Domestic Violence as well as creating awareness in our communities, also helping our community members become allies. W.O.M.A.N., Inc. is an amazing organization and I am very honored to be part of their team.

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Comedy Benefit for W.O.M.A.N., Inc. at El Rio!

El Rio, Maureen Langan, Betsy Salkind, Lisa GeduldigNickStefaniEloisaYayne
For Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Comedy Returns to El Rio! will hold a benefit comedy night for W.O.M.A.N., Inc., an anti-domestic violence nonprofit, at El Rio Bar Community Space & Garden, 3158 Mission Street, San Francisco.

On Thursday, October 16 at 8:00 pm, enjoy the sharp humor of Maureen Langan, Betsy Salkind, Yayne Abeba, Eloisa Bravo, Stefani Silverman, Nick Leonard, and MC Lisa Geduldig.

Local comic Lisa Geduldig launched Comedy Returns to El Rio! 5 years ago, on the 20th anniversary of her stand-up career. Happening every 3rd Thursday of the month, her event showcases intelligent humor and she endeavors to book a line-up that is varied in race, culture and gender.

It also helps that Thursday nights at El Rio are now Ping-Pong nights (Lisa’s favorite sport), so for the modest price of $7-$50 (sliding scale) you can laugh your head off, then sweat your butt off at the Ping-Pong table!

The comedians you will enjoy:

Maureen Langan is a New York City-based stand-up comic. She’s a regular at Carolines on Broadway, and performs all over the US, Canada, and the UK. She is the recipient of the prestigious MAC (Manhattan Association of Clubs and Cabarets) Award for Best Female Comic.

Betsy Salkind -The Boston Globe said, “There are countless ways to make someone laugh, and Betsy Salkind knows most of them. Want sarcastic wit? Political humor? Or maybe just a good animal mime? Salkind can pull all that off and more.”

Yayne Abeba, a native San Franciscan, recently starred in her own one-hour TV special “Africa Laughs with Yayne Abeba” on the Africa Channel. Her style is fresh, innovative, cutting edge and just damn funny.

Eloisa Bravo has performed at the San Francisco Punchline, the Purple Onion, Rooster T. Feathers, as well as the Palm Beach, Miami, and Hollywood Improvs. She holds nothing back and derives her material from real life, exploding with energy on stage.

Stefani Silverman is a former attorney, who uses her hard earned critical thinking skills to talk about such complex topics as food, sex and things she sees on MUNI. Mostly observational, increasingly self-revelatory, Stefani’s comedy will get you laughing and keep you thinking.

Nick Leonard performs his dry and sly humor at clubs around California and all over the world including Marsh Theater, NYU, The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, The San Francisco Fringe Festival, and the Vancouver International Comedy Festival.

Lisa Geduldig is the creator, producer, and MC of Kung Pao Kosher Comedy™; Funny Girlz: A Smorgasbord of Women Comedians; The Color of Funny: A Multi-Cultural Comedy Show; and A Muslim, A Mormon, and A Jew Walk into A Bar: The Comedy of Religion.
This show promises to sell out, so get your tickets now: Or 800-838-3006
For more info on the event:

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October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Let’s raise some dough for W.O.M.A.N., Inc.

Many thanks to one of our newest board members Mary Kate Bacalao for creating this fun indiegogo fundraising campaign…

Follow this link to donate today!


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