US woman pursues ex-boyfriend in landmark UK revenge-porn action

An American woman is aiming to make legal history in England as the first person to seek both a civil action for damages and the criminal prosecution of a former partner she accuses of posting revenge pornography of her on the internet.

Speaking exclusively in a Guardian documentary on her search for justice, Chrissy Chambers, 24, claims that her ex-boyfriend recorded them having sex without her knowledge and subsequently posted the footage on an amateur porn site without her consent. The man, whom the Guardian has chosen not to name, is British and Chambers alleges he posted the footage while in England, which has led her to seek legal recourse in the UK.

Chambers was 18 when she suggested to her then-boyfriend that the couple take a break from the relationship. “The day that I suggested we take a break, he suggested that we have an evening of drinking,” she said.

Chambers claims she became extremely intoxicated while her ex-boyfriend remained much more sober, and says she has no memory of him having sex with her that night. “He also proceeded to film it, and didn’t tell me.”

The videos were uploaded more than a year after their break-up. They continued to be circulated online while Chambers, unaware they existed, began a relationship with her current partner, Bria Kam, with whom she has forged a successful career on YouTube as one of the site’s most popular content providers.

Their channel, BriaAndChrissy, has nearly half a million subscribers, and their videos have been viewed over 70m times. It was through comments left on the channel that Chambers first became aware the videos allegedly made by her ex-partner existed.

Chrissy Chambers says a video of her having sex was made without her knowledge. Photograph: Youtube

Chrissy Chambers says a video of her having sex was made without her knowledge. Photograph: Youtube

“We had these 14-year-old girls that we’ve been trying to inspire writing [to] us and saying: ‘I had so much respect for you and now you’re a porn star. You’re such a slut. How could I respect you?’”

As well as causing her distress, Chambers says the videos have led to significant losses of subscribers – and consequently thousands of dollars of lost income – from her YouTube channels. The videos had already been online for two years, garnering tens of thousands of views, and had been shared on 35 separate pornography sites.

Ann Olivarius, the lawyer representing Chambers, told the Guardian: “You have to be able to go after money damages in a civil context to be able to try to stop this problem. Money is the currency of how we achieve justice, that’s the measurement.”

Olivarius previously made fighting for women’s rights as part of the team that coined the term “date rape” and is aware of the challenges that Chambers faces in pursuing legal action.

In April, the so-called revenge-porn law was introduced in England and Wales making it an offense to distribute a private sexual image of someone without their consent and with the intention of causing them distress. But the new law cannot be applied in Chambers’s case as the videos in question were posted several years ago. Any  in her case would be forced to rely on a raft of older laws, including the Malicious Communications Act, and the legal requirements of these laws struggle to fit in with the act of uploading.

Furthermore, civil claims for damages are difficult to bring. Victims of revenge pornography are unable to sue for defamation, as although the images and videos posted of them might be damaging, they depict events that really happened and therefore do not qualify as “false statements”.

“We will take this case as far as the law allows,” Olivarius said. “We know what has to get done, we know this is wrong, we know that society should not tolerate this, it’s not acceptable behaviour, but still they get away with it all the time.”

Chambers gave an official statement to the Metropolitan police in April in the hope that criminal proceedings can be brought against her former partner. She is waiting to hear whether charges can be brought. Chambers knows that, if successful, hers will be a landmark case. But she’s aware of how difficult the task ahead will be for her. “I can’t imagine what it’s like for someone who feels the same as me and doesn’t have all of this team behind them,” she said. “What they have now is not enough. It’s just not enough. And it’s ruining people’s lives.”

Watch Chrissy’s video to other victims of revenge porn… Read the rest