Youngstown woman joins fight against revenge porn


By JORDYN GRZELEWSKI

jgrzelewski@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

When Katelyn Bowden of Youngstown found out last year that explicit photos of her had been posted online, she was devastated.

Her feeling of helplessness only worsened when she went to a local police department, where she was shocked to learn that nothing could be done.

In Ohio, posting intimate photos without consent is not a crime.

State Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, D-33rd, is trying to change that.

When he made an announcement Thursday at the Ohio Statehouse about a bill that would address the issue, Bowden was there to lend her voice.

In the months since she became a victim of revenge porn, she has dedicated herself to fighting it and helping other victims.

“As of right now, we are woefully behind every other state, the 38 other states that have [anti-revenge porn laws] passed,” Bowden told The Vindicator. “It’s a huge problem. This is happening to way too many people, and there’s no deterrent for it.”

Schiavoni’s legislation would make posting revenge porn a misdemeanor offense. It also would put in place protections for victims, an aspect of the bill that Bowden said is crucial.

“People have gotten in trouble if, say, they took a photo and in the background there is a school logo or something like that,” she said.

“And with employment, for example, nurses and teachers have clauses in their contracts that state if these photos show up, they could be fired. And obviously, it’s not their fault.”

The bill would protect victims from facing punitive measures from universities or employers.

Schiavoni said it also would provide a pathway for victims to take civil action against perpetrators.

Belinda Berry of Pittsburgh, another revenge- porn victim turned activist, also joined Schiavoni at the Statehouse.

She and Bowden, who together started a nonprofit called Battling Against Demeaning and Abusive Selfie Sharing, agree the proposed law is a good solution to the problem, especially because of its focus on victims.

“I think it also sends a message,” Berry said.

“He focuses more on the victim and their rights, as well as creating consequences for the poster,” Bowden said.

Schiavoni, who is running for governor this year, said he expects to finalize the bill’s language in the next week or so.

When he does introduce it, Bowden said there will be an army of women supporting it.

“When the time comes, we’re all going to be calling our representatives and senators and asking them to listen,” she said.

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