SC mayor pushes for revenge porn law after she says she was a victim

Local News

BELTON, S.C. (WSPA) – Belton mayor Tiffany Ownbey is pressing for a revenge porn law in South Carolina after she says she was a victim.

Years ago, Tiffany Ownbey was in a relationship with a man who used his cell phone to secretly record a private intimate encounter with her without her consent, according to Ownbey’s attorney Druanne White. White said the man later revealed to Ownbey that he had the recording and threatened to distribute it if she broke up with him. Ownbey told him she would press charges.

“I felt violated. I felt hurt, anger,” Ownby said. “There’s no words to describe how I felt at that point.”

She said she never saw the recording.

“Kind of forgot about it,” Ownbey said. “Didn’t think anything.”

Ownbey then went years without contact with that man, according to her attorney. After she became Belton’s first elected female mayor in November, her lawyer said Ownbey began hearing rumors that the recording may be released. The recording has since been released.

Several weeks ago, Ownbey asked the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division to investigate. She said it wasn’t a difficult decision to make.

“Because I have a daughter,” she said. “If this happened to me, it could happen to anyone.”

SLED is now investigating. The public reaction to the investigation isn’t what the mayor expected.

“I knew I was going to have some adverse publicity, but I never expected in a million years to be victim shamed the way I was,” she said.

She said that felt like being violated all over again.

“I guess I was kind of appalled. Like really? We’re in 2020 and someone comes forward from being a victim and that’s how you treat them? That’s what’s wrong with what’s going on today,” she said.

According to the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, South Carolina is one of four states that doesn’t have a law criminalizing the publication of non-consensual pornography, also known as “revenge porn.”

White said right now in South Carolina, it’s difficult to prosecute someone who records and releases intimate acts without consent.

“A prosecutor must prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt,” White said. “So as a prosecutor you’re trying to kind of squeeze some behavior over here into this law, but it dosen’t quite fit, you’re going to have a really hard time.”

Ownbey wants to change that. She’s pushing for South Carolina to make revenge porn a crime.

“Revenge porn is real and it’s happening daily,” she said. “It’s happening to a lot women. And it’s time something happens about it. If somebody’s going to stand up, why not me?”

White said a law should require people to get written permission to record a sexual act and then distribute it or face a felony.

Several bills that would criminalize revenge porn have been introduced in South Carolina’s General Assembly, but none of them have ever been passed into law.

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