Carrie Goldberg

Lawyer Carrie Goldberg, posing on courthouse steps, will speak Sunday at Whitman College about sexual privacy and revenge pornography.

Revenge porn.

It sounds unseemly, something from a tabloid or a movie you wouldn’t take your parents to see.

New York-based attorney Carrie Goldberg will be at Whitman College on Monday at 7 p.m. at Reid Campus Center to confirm why the term sounds toxic.

Goldberg, born in Washington state, has risen quickly as a pioneer in the legal field of sexual privacy. Goldberg’s clients include victims of an online assault often termed revenge pornography.

This week she announced a deal with Penguin Books for “Fairer Sex,” a tome on high-profile cases of women facing online harassment, blackmail and threats.

Revenge porn usually refers to the sexually explicit portrayal of someone — from consensual sex to rape — distributed without his or her consent. In general, the phrase refers to the uploading of privately shared photos, in order to humiliate or intimidate — a trend Goldberg calls ”gross” and usually involves jilted exes posting such pictures of women who broke up with them.

Goldberg’s legal representation of the victims of revenge porn has drawn national attention, through dozens of news stories, media appearances and speaking engagements. From the British Broadcasting Corporation to a thorough profile of Goldberg’s work in the December issue of The New Yorker, word is getting out — the justice system is getting schooled about the insidious crime.

Sometimes the compromising pictures are spread by strangers who have hacked into a victim’s phone, laptop or cloud-based document storage, Goldberg says on her website.

“Revenge porn can have huge repercussions for a victim’s relationships, career and mental health. But it is a relatively new phenomenon, and so it can be trickier to resolve than more traditional forms of abuse,” she said.

Goldberg makes it clear women, and men, shouldn’t have to “watch out for” anything, however.

“If someone shares nude photos or videos sent to them in confidence, they are the ones who will answer to the law and face social judgment,” she said in an email.

“What these women should know is that there are civil and criminal pathways for seeking justice if their sexual privacy has been violated in this way.”

Goldberg said what everyone should know, as well, is anyone can fall prey to revenge porn.

“There is a tendency for some people to be smug and judgmental, believing they could never be the victim of nonconsensual porn because they’ve never taken a nude picture, but we have clients who have been photoshopped nude, who have been filmed without their consent or knowledge, and even where it was nonconsensual sex that was being filmed,” she said.

“Our clients are between age 13 and 65 and across socioeconomic backgrounds. More women seek our help because they are so badly harassed on the internet in the aftermath, but we’ve had many male clients, too.”

No one is truly immune, the attorney said, noting a person’s looks, sexual history or age means nothing in these crimes. “We have seen women who have been in marriages for 20-plus years discover that their partners have been producing and distributing their naked photos,” Goldberg said.

Anyone can be a moment away from “meeting a sociopath hellbent on destroying your life,” Goldberg said she tells her audiences.

“This isn’t a problem limited to the social media generation Z. It’s a problem that all people are at risk of and should be outraged by.”

If the unthinkable happens, there are remedies and life does go on, she added.

If the crime is discovered soon enough, Goldberg’s firm can stop a privacy violation before it goes viral. In other instances, it’s a case of attacking the problem through a slew of legal means, including cease and desist letters and restraining orders.

Goldberg’s Whitman College discussion will focus on how revenge porn fits into a broader conversation about domestic violence.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at or 526-8322.

Sheila Hagar has written for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin since 1998. Sheila covers health, social services and city government in Milton-Freewater, Athena and Weston in the Walla Walla Valley.

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