Victim of revenge porn sues ex-lover, testing Saskatchewan's new privacy law

A Saskatchewan woman has filed a civil suit against her ex-lover, Daylan Heidel, seeking compensation for harm allegedly inflicted when he shared intimate images without her consent.

A publication ban protects the woman's identity.

In a statement of claim filed at Court of Queen's Bench this week, the woman said that Heidel, her former sexual partner, repeatedly posted intimate images and videos of her on internet porn sites, such as xHamster and Pornhub, without her consent. She also alleges that he "maliciously" published her personal information and location "to cause maximum harm."

She said it was "highly invasive, degrading and morally damaging."

Earlier this month, Heidel pleaded guilty to distributing intimate images of four women — including the plaintiff — without their consent between 2015 and 2019. He was sentenced to 18 months in jail. With time served, he is set to spend another 13 months behind bars.

The woman's lawyer, Sean Sinclair, said he believes this is the first civil suit filed under Saskatchewan's new "revenge porn" law. A change to the Privacy Act that came into effect in September 2018 allows victims to sue for financial compensation from the person who distributed images without consent.

She's really standing up to her abuser and I think it's a courageous and difficult thing to do. - Sean Sinclair, lawyer of woman who filed lawsuit

"Our client brought the claim forward because her privacy and her trust had been violated by Mr. Heidel sharing these intimate images and videos of her online. And by bringing the action, she's really standing up to her abuser and I think it's a courageous and difficult thing to do," said Sinclair, a lawyer with Robertson Stromberg law firm in Saskatoon.

Manitoba was the first province in Canada to pass this kind of law. Last year, a female police officer in Brandon, Man., sued another woman she alleged had distributed intimate images of her.

The Saskatchewan woman is claiming she has suffered injury, particularly to her mental well-being, but didn't specify a monetary amount for damages.

One intimate image was allegedly viewed online 1.5 million times.

Sinclair said that the woman had a reasonable expectation of privacy, under the Privacy Act, and that it was violated. He's also seeking damages for his client under tort law, for both the public disclosure of private facts and the intentional infliction of mental distress.

Many of the claims in the civil suit align with facts that were agreed to by Heidel and his defence lawyer in the criminal case.

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For example, Heidel was released on bail after being charged with distributing intimate images without consent and then proceeded to share another image of the woman.

During sentencing in the criminal case, Heidel's lawyer, Ron Piché, said alcohol was a factor in these crimes.

"It was a combination of very, very poor judgment while he was under the influence of alcohol, and that's not a defence and that's not an excuse," Piché said outside the courthouse. "But if he starts addressing that part of his life, I think good things will flow."

Heidel stood up in court during his criminal sentencing and said: "I take full responsibility for my actions. By no means am I proud of what happened."

Sobbing, he said that he had ruined a lot of people's lives.

No statement of defence against the lawsuit has been filed yet.