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'This Could Happen To Anybody' Miami-Based Author Looks At Teen Cyber Sexual Harassment

Graphic by Alejandra Martinez
Rochelle Weinstein's book "Somebody's Daughter" examines what happens when teens use the web as a weapon.

We all make mistakes.

If you've never made an error in judgment or engaged in behavior that later made you cringe -- count yourself lucky. But in this digital age, an embarrassing, reckless moment can be captured on video and go "viral" in an instant.

And it’s becoming increasingly hard for parents to guide their children through a social media landscape that can so quickly turn from "Likes" and innocent chats to cyber-bullying or worse.

Those issues and more are at the center of the novel “Somebody’s Daughter,” by Miami-based author Rochelle Weinstein. The book made the summer reading list of at least one South Florida high school.

Last week on WLRN Sundial, news anchor Christine DiMattei interviewed Weinstein and Miami attorney Elisa d’Amico, co-founder of the Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project. D'Amico's pro bono work helps the victims of what’s become known as "revenge porn."

** A note to listeners: the interview posted below includes adult content that parents might feel is not appropriate for young listeners **  

This excerpt of the conversation has been edited lightly for clarity.

WLRN: "Somebody’s Daughter" revolves around a sexual indiscretion at a party that’s captured on cell phone video and goes viral. A teenage girl and her family are then plunged into chaos. Why was it important for you to tell this story? 

WEINSTEIN: I had teenage boys at the time I wrote the novel and I saw the landscape of  oversharing and digital technology and the dangers involved. I felt we were not educating our kids properly. And as parents, we're giving them the keys to this digital kingdom that we don't know a lot about. And I felt that it was really important to educate these kids -- they need to understand the dangers of oversharing, the long-lasting effects.

In the book, this happens to a wealthy family. Why did you set the book in a world of privilege as opposed to a middle-class or even an impoverished family?

I tried to build the book around this perfect family because the whole point was -- this could happen to anybody. While we try to do our best, there's no real blueprint for parenting. Kids mess up  -- no matter who they are, no matter the demographic, no matter their socio-economic status.

Elisa, so-called "revenge porn" is an important theme in the book.  What exactly is it?

D'AMICO: Revenge porn or nonconsensual pornography is the nonconsensual sharing of intimate media -- photographs or video -- without consent of the pictured individual. We've moved over to using the phraseology of "nonconsensual pornography" because a lot of times there is no revenge aspect. 

Rochelle, "Somebody's Daughter" has landed on the summer reading list of at least one South Florida high school. Usually, such lists are reserved for the classics like Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" or Harper Lee's "To Kill A Mockingbird." Why does your book deserve to be in that kind of literary company for young readers?

WEINSTEIN: I think it's a real challenge today to get kids to read and I find that "Somebody's Daughter" is relatable and informative. I feel it's very important that a school is finally taking note of the dangers of digital oversharing and cyber sexual harassment. I think that they're doing a great job in educating their students on how to be safe online, long term repercussions -- and also that beautiful kernel of compassion for when they see it happens to somebody they know.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual cyber harassment, please check out Cyber Rights Project.com and Cyber Civil Rights.org. These organizations can help you protect your rights, restore your online safety and connect you with legal help if needed.

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Years ago, after racking her brains trying to find a fun, engaging, creative night gig to subsidize her acting habit, Chris decided to ride her commercial voiceover experience into the fast-paced world of radio broadcasting. She started out with traffic reporting, moved on to news -- and never looked back. Since then, Chris has worked in newsrooms throughout South Florida, producing stories for radio broadcasts and the web.