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On Wednesday night, representatives from UCF's Police Department, Victim Services and Student Legal Services hosted a panel discussion about revenge porn in the Student Union.

The act of posting sexually explicit photos of others online without their consent is a well-publicized issue, with celebrity cases recently making headlines. Officer Pete Stephens said the issue hits close to home with one or two UCF students reporting the crime each month. However, he said that's not a large number compared to how many students go to UCF.

"We realize that it's an underreported crime, most definitely," Stephens said. "These are very, very low numbers compared [with] what's probably really happening out there."

Still, only 10 people attended the forum, and half were affiliated with student news outlets.

The impetus for the event, Stephens said, was a recent case in which a UCF student was charged with stalking and tampering with a witness, after posting nude photos of his ex-girlfriend online.

Florida has no law that criminalizes revenge porn, so Stephens said the crime usually falls under stalking, cyber-stalking or extortion.

"I feel like the technology and the laws aren't exactly correlating," said Sapphire Kusztyb-Bentley, a freshmen legal studies major. "I thought it would at least be a hate crime … I'm kind of disturbed that it's just under cyber-stalking."

Recently, Florida Sen. David Simmons proposed a bill to make the act of posting sexually explicit images online without a person's consent punishable by law.

"It passed unanimously in the Senate, and failed to make it in the House," said Jamie Owen, program attorney and community outreach coordinator at Student Legal Services.

"What that leaves us with is kind of a piecemeal, not so great system to deal with what happens when a romantic partner posts your image or something gets hacked … or maybe it's just something else that's not very flattering that you don't like to be out on the Internet. There isn't a whole lot," she said.

Owen recommends that if students are going to share private photos of themselves, they should avoid including their faces or identifying features such as tattoos in the pictures.

On the flipside, Christey Oberbeck, an advocate at UCF Victim Services, says if your photos have already been published on the Web without your consent, do not Google your name, because it will continue to appear at the top of search-engine results.

Eventually, Oberbeck said, something else will come along and push it down past the first search results. Although nothing can ever disappear from the Internet, she said that once the photo has been pushed past 10 pages on a search engine, most people aren't going to see it.

If the photos threaten to harm your academic or professional opportunities, Oberbeck said to "always be open and honest about it." Victims Services helps UCF students "reframe" these kinds of incidents to help victims explain the situations to their employers and academic advisers, Oberbeck said.

Saying "I was in college" helps a lot, she said. "This is where you learn, you make your mistakes and you figure own personality, your own boundaries and your own self."

"We all have those college stories," Oberbeck continued, "but when we went to college, we didn't have the Internet, we didn't have smartphones with cameras …"

UCF Victim Services has a 24/7 hotline and coaches students through revenge porn cases and other challenging circumstances. Learn more at www.victimservices.ucf.edu.

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