TODAY   |  May 03, 2013

‘Revenge porn’ victim: ‘My life was ruined’

Holly Jacobs’ life was turned upside down when intimate photos she had sent her ex-boyfriend turned up online. She is now speaking out about her ordeal, hoping to alert others to the dangers of “revenge porn,” which experts say is more common than you might think.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> what some call cyber revenge, intimate images shown by an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend. it happened to a woman in florida and kerry sanders shows us how she's fighting back.

>> reporter: it can destroy lives with the click of a mouse, naked or intimate photographs shared between two people in a relationship suddenly find their way onto the internet, after the relationship goes bad and someone decides to get revenge.

>> my stomach dropped. i honestly could feel myself turning white.

>> reporter: holly jacobs was 26 and a ph.d. candidate when her life suddenly turned upside down, naked pictures she had sent to her boyfriend years before showed up on the web.

>> i just felt like my life is ruined.

>> reporter: experts believe it happens more than you may imagine to both women and men. but unlike sexual assault in most of the country, so-called revern porn is not a crime.

>> any time our society chooses not to blame that kind of malicious behavior and instead blame the actions of the victims you could be next.

>> reporter: last month jacobs sued her ex-boyfriend ryan in civil court becoming it's believed the first person in florida to sue someone for allegedly distributing revenge pornography. seh is also facing related criminal charges including stalking and unlawful publication. his lawyer says seh never posted any pictures of holly and claims someone hacked his computer, stole the pictures and then posted them.

>> he adamantly disputes the charges, he's steadfast denies any involvement and his position is he's a victim as much as holly is.

>> reporter: how best to avoid this problem, experts say don't take pictures and then share them.

>> anybody who think this is isn't going to happen to them is resting on people are good people and they're not.

>> reporter: for "today," kerry sanders , nbc news, miami.

>> joining us exclusively is holly jacobs and her attorney, patrick magee .

>> good morning.

>> this wasn't just a facebook profile photo, you changed that back but you started to see other photos showing up in other places, right?

>> um-hum, yes, they started popping up on sites every six months, and then all of a sudden i srted dating somebody new in november of 2011 and they went viral.

>> at times the picture would come up and your name and contact information would accompany it, which becomes a dangerous situation.

>> yes, absolutely, because you have people, i mean my, mail address was attached to these so i had harassing e-mails constantly coming in, my work location was posted up there so i was terrified. i was so afraid somebody would physically stalk me.

>> reporter: i want to mention in your case it was mostly nude photographs, in other cases, i mean there are very sexually explicit videos that have been posted by an ex-boyfriend or an ex-girlfriend online, and yet it doesn't seem as we heard in kerry's piece that in enough states there's any way you can fight back against it.

>> right, currently they have a law in new jersey right now that actually helps victims fight against revenge porn and that's the best law in the books so i would urge other states to take on this law, it's new jersey 2c14-9.

>> there are people who are going to look at you and say you shouldn't have taken the photos in the first place. when you take photos you should always think they may eventually end up online. how do you respond to that idea?

>> its sea absolutely a new version of victim blaming and what i would say to victims when they hear that is just hold onto that little voice inside of you that says this is not right. what's happening to me is not okay. and there need to be laws in place against this.

>> patrick, what's the outcome you're looking for. i know there is legal action under way. what is the best case scenio?

>> to get injunktive relief, get the pictures down and stop the propagation of the images. we filed for injunktive relief temporary and permanent. we have enough evidence, we think it's pretty good.

>> four years holly since this began. what is the message you want to send?

>> stand up for what you feel is right. 'not okay that people are doing this and exploiting you just because you trusted somebody and because you shared intimate photographs in an intimate relationship . that's not the problem here. what's the problem is that somebody is using this against you and trying to drive you to suicide. you know, they're ruining your lives. that's not okay.

>> holly jacobs , thank you. i think it's brave you're speaking out and patrick thank you as well.