Family: Indiana law fails to protect revenge porn victims

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — 13 Investigates a gap in Indiana law that could allow someone to post sexually explicit images of you or older teens without consent, and worse yet without prosecution. One 18-year old is speaking out in hopes of empowering more revenge porn victims and advocating for a change in state law.

It was a provocative photo similar to infamous cover shots of popular Hollywood stars on magazines: Topless women with strategically placed arms. But 18-year-old Colene Speckman never meant for her image to land on a porn site.

“You feel violated. You feel dirty,” she told 13 Investigates.

Colene’s photo was supposed to post to Snapchat and then quickly disappear.

“You don’t really think that anything is going to happen,” she said.

Nonconsensual disclosure of explicit photos

But in seconds, Colene says a rejected classmate snagged a screen shot that threatened to ruin her life.

Since freshman year, that classmate had asked her out. Each time she said ‘No.”

“After I said ‘No!” to him, he’s like ‘Oh by the way there’s this site of you, pictures of you.’ I was like ‘What pictures?’ and he shows me one of them.”

“Shocking!” said Colene’s mother Pam, who had heard of “revenge porn” before. She had no idea her daughter was at the center of a cyber attack until overhearing Colene on the phone.

“It’s not private! It’s out there. It becomes public,” said Pam Speckman referring to the apps that promise privacy.

Images of Indiana girls posted on porn site

“I just broke down in tears”

Once she saw the actual porn site where her daughter’s picture was posted, she couldn’t believe how many girls were impacted.

She isn’t sure how their pictures landed on the site, but she said she saw high school girls from across Indianapolis and the entire country posted like trading cards and categorized by school logos.

“Some of them were totally clothed except in a bathing suit,” she told 13 Investigates. “The picture of my daughter was not. She wasn’t naked, but it was provocative where she had her arm over her breast.”

“I didn’t want this happening,” said Colene in frustration. “I bet you these girls didn’t either.”

According to Colene, the classmate who told her about the porn site admitted to adding her image.

“I told him I was going to get the police involved and that’s when he finally let go and told me ‘I was the one who started it.’ I just broke down in tears,” Colene revealed.

The Speckman’s contacted Colene’s School. The school notified parents of the impacted girls and Indianapolis Police. But the Speckmans found Indiana’s laws on sexting and sextortion lacking when it comes to prosecuting nonconsensual disclosure of sexually explicit images.

Indiana’s sexting and sextortion laws don’t apply

“They basically get away with it and it’s not fair”

Indiana Federal Prosecutor Steve DeBrota tells 13 Investigates Indiana’s sexting laws don’t apply because it deals with individuals under 18 years old. Sextortion charges only apply if there is a threat of extortion or a demand involved.

Pam Speckman says county prosecutors believe those violated share some blame.

“The prosecutor believes the perpetrator is 50-percent guilty and the victim is 50-percent guilty,” she said.

According to the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative more than 30 states across the country have nonconsensual disclosure laws on the books. But not Indiana.

“They basically get away with it and it’s not fair,” said Colene.

“That’s what started me on the crusade,” added her mother.

Indiana lawmaker considering new legislation

“It’s just tragic when you hear these stories,” said State Senator Aaron Freeman, who represents Southeast Marion County and is a former deputy prosecutor.

Freeman told 13 Investigates Indiana’s disclosure laws are not where they need to be.

“I think we probably need to give prosecutors some additional tools and avenues to really prosecute people that are using these kinds of things without a woman or man’s consent. Posting something just to embarrass them,” explained Freeman.

He says the challenge is creating the right balance. He wants a law to help educate youth but make it tough enough to deter revenge porn.

“Do you criminalize it? Is it more of an educational piece?,” questions Freeman. “If somebody is doing it maliciously and they’re doing it in just some vindictive way, in my opinion that needs to be a crime.”

Breaking their silence

At first Colene and her mother suffered silently.

“You don’t dare tell anybody and I never felt so alone,” admitted Colene’s mother.

They decided to contact Senator Freeman and speak out in hopes of shifting power back to those violated.

“There is a way to you know like speak out. Talk to somebody,” added Colene. She credits her mother and friends for standing by her.

Even though Colene says her former classmate removed the thread on the porn site, she knows her image could show up somewhere else.

Now she wants other girls to understand that posting, even for just a few seconds, could risk a lifetime of privacy. All it takes is for someone to capture a screen shot of your image and use it without your consent for revenge.

“You don’t think anybody’s going to do this to you until it actually happens,” said Colene.

Senator Freeman is working with the Indiana Attorney General’s office to come up with proposed legislation.

Meanwhile Colene and her mother welcome others to join them in changing the law.