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A 24-year-old Billings man pleaded guilty Thursday to posting nude photos of his ex-girlfriend on Craigslist and pretending to be her seeking sexual encounters. 

Mathew Christopher Connery was charged with misdemeanor privacy in communications for listing her phone number in the casual encounters sections of Craigslist. A nude photo she had provided him while the two were in a relationship was also posted.

In his plea before Yellowstone County Justice of the Peace David Carter, Connery at first appeared contrite.

"I realize what I did when I did it," Connery said. "I wasn't in the best state of mind when I did it."

When Carter asked him to admit to the crime, however, he hesitated.

"I wasn't trying to intimidate her," Connery said. "It was a really stupid joke between her and me when we were together." 

Asked by the judge if he was "trying to embarrass her or cause her emotional pain," Connery said, "I guess so, yeah."

The woman filed a restraining order against Connery after he posted the photo and showed up unannounced at her home, her family's home and her work. She requested he destroy the photos so they could no longer be posted. 

Connery's sentencing will be Feb. 25, allowing the victim time to write an impact statement for the court. 

His conviction comes only a week after the Women's Media Center launched a site nationally to help identify and categorize harassment of women online. 

Director for the Women's Media Center Speech Project, Soraya Chemaly, said "revenge porn" or "non-consensual pornography" is a growing problem for women online. The speech project intends to raise awareness and understanding of the developing problem. 

"A lot of times, when these crimes are reported, they are routinely minimized by being categorized as a misdemeanor," Chemaly said. 

A nude photo of someone posted on the Internet is like stripping someone naked and throwing them into a public place, Chemaly said, although the crimes aren't treated that way. 

Connery faces a maximum punishment of six months in jail and a $500 fine, according to Montana Law. 

Although, Chenaly said her organization isn't focused on making changes through the legal system, "When you look at rape, at domestic violence and the legal remedies for these crimes, we know the court system is so biased."

Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Paul Chaon was the lead prosecutor on one of three related stalking cases charged during 2014. The offender, Terry Stoltz was sentenced to five years for felony drug possession and concurrent sentences of five years with two suspended for stalking.

Stoltz had set up a video camera in the victim's shower, which he said he was using to watch some chickens he kept there.

Chaon said Stoltz adopted a mentality toward his victim of, “I’m going to make your life miserable.”

According to the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative's "Effects of Revenge Porn" Survey, 90 percent of revenge porn victims are women, while 60 percent of perpetrators were men. Of those who have suffered from revenge porn, 49 percent were then harassed by people who saw the images, according to the survey.

Victims of revenge porn are sometimes fired from their jobs. Harm is done to their reputation, there are psychological impacts and they face social stigma for their sending the photos in the first place, Chenaly said.

It needs to start with education, Chenaly said. Society as a whole believes that women's bodies are a public resource, Chenaly said. 

"I had a young man ask me in a class once what the difference was between posting a photo of his girlfriend and a picture of a toaster," Chenaly said.

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"A toaster doesn't have rights," Chenaly said. 

What will most often happen in these cases is that two people will be in a relationship and use text messaging to send sexually explicit photos to one another, Chenaly said. These people are typically in their teens up to late twenties. While men and women share photos at about the same rate, men are three-to-five times more likely to share sexually explicit images without permission.

When the relationship ends, men use this as blackmail.

Chenaly has also seen cases where a man will rape a woman and video tape it. Yellowstone County saw this behavior with Toby Griego, a Yellowstone County serial rapist who recorded his attacks of women on his cellphone. 

"When we write stories about domestic violence, they are often the most salacious, stranger-based violence stories," Chenaly said. "But this ignores the day-to-day violence women face in their homes and on the Internet."

In a 2010 Casper, Wyo., case, a man named Jebidiah James Stipe posted a photo of his ex-girlfriend on Craigslist saying the woman was seeking someone to help her play out a rape fantasy. Ty Oliver McDowell responded to the ad and assaulted the woman, according to a news story.

“He left the victim naked, tied up on the floor and actually locked the door when he left,” Natrona County District Attorney Michael Blonigen said in the story.

McDowell admitted to three counts of first-degree sexual assault, one count of aggravated kidnapping and one count of aggravated burglary.

Stipe admitted to one count of conspiracy to commit sexual assault and four other felonies related to the rape.

To learn more about the speech project, visit The Speech Project website where a list of the six types of abuse women face online are listed as well as articles and surveys conducted on the subject. 

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