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N.Y. Professor Wins $30 Million in ‘Revenge Porn’ Lawsuit Against Ex: ‘Never-Ending Cycle of Fear’

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N.Y. Professor Wins $30 Million in 'Revenge Porn' Lawsuit Against Ex: 'Never-Ending Cycle of Fear' 1

Dr. Spring Chenoa Cooper. PHOTO: COURTESY OF DANIEL SZALKIEWICZ & ASSOCIATES, P.C.

“They understood this is a horrible crime,” Spring Chenoa Cooper, 43, tells PEOPLE about the award

A New York City professor was awarded $30 million in damages against an ex-boyfriend after he posted intimate videos and photos of her online after they broke up.

“I think my jaw is still on the floor,” Spring Chenoa Cooper, 43, tells PEOPLE about the award. “I had no idea how the jury was going to go. And what I knew was that the higher the number, the more validated I would feel that the jury understood that cyber sexual assault is a real sexual assault, that the impacts are the same. They understood this is a horrible crime.”

The associate professor in public health at the City University of New York, who filed the civil lawsuit against her ex-boyfriend Ryan Broems in 2018, says she feels that the Manhattan jury “wanted to send a clear message to other survivors and to other potential perpetrators that we’re not going to stand for this.”

Cooper says her nightmare began shortly after she broke up with Broems in Nov. 2017 after 11 months of dating.

Soon after, he began sending her intimate Snapchat videos and texts.

She says she blocked him but then received a message demanding she send him intimate images or he “would post me on his ‘slut exposing blog,’” according to an affidavit for summary judgment obtained by PEOPLE.

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N.Y. Professor Wins $30 Million in 'Revenge Porn' Lawsuit Against Ex: 'Never-Ending Cycle of Fear' 2

Dr. Spring Chenoa Cooper and Ryan Broems. COURTESY OF DANIEL SZALKIEWICZ & ASSOCIATES, P.C.

When she didn’t respond, multiple intimate images of her were uploaded on Tumblr, she says.

“Everything in my life changed after Broems first contacted me as Calidaddy26,” she alleged in the court filing. “Intimate image after image was relentlessly uploaded online for weeks, often alongside my name, social media profiles, contact information, and other identifying information about me.”

Strangers started contacting her online and started sending messages to her work email, she alleges. Some of the people would even threaten to repost the photos. “I’m going to post your pictures again, or I’m going to post somewhere broadly,” she says. “Sometimes they would just say mean things to me. Just call me a stupid slut.”

“Whenever a new post would go up, I would have to try to pretend to be nice to the people harassing me to try to figure out where the post was,” she says.

Cooper says her friends “would constantly help me search and look for the images online and get them taken down. I had friends that were seriously enrolled in this process with me where they were supporting me ongoing, and it was part of their lives too. They were committed to supporting me through this.”

Cooper says she filed police reports, but her ex-boyfriend continued to harass her.

“I spent the night at friend’s houses several nights a week,” she says. “I was crying several hours a day. Every time a new post went up, I would be hysterical for hours. Literally, it’s like I’ve just been sexually assaulted, and I am beside myself.”

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In Dec. 2021, he pleaded guilty to a violation of unlawfully disclosing an intimate image, according to the civil filings. As part of his plea deal, he agreed to enter an abusive partner program and Cooper was granted an order of protection, Cooper’s attorney Cali P. Madia tells PEOPLE.

“I was never allowed a day in court and was never able to confront him for what he had done to me,” Cooper said in the court filings. “Defendant paid no fines and served no jail time for what he did…While defendant, perhaps, has been allowed to move on with his life. I, however, continue to be stuck in a never-ending cycle of fear due to his uploading of my intimate images along with my name, employer, title, social media pages, and contact.”

Cooper tells PEOPLE that she has difficulty trusting people and gets triggered by phone alert sounds. “My phone used to just go crazy when I would get all these alerts when another post would go up,” she says. “My phone has been on silent since 2018. If I have a friend come over and they start getting a lot of alerts, I feel traumatized. I have to ask them; do you mind putting your phone on silent? One thing here or there is fine. But when they start coming in repeatedly, it triggers the trauma immediately. I feel it come up. I feel terrified. There are triggers that are still existing for me. “

Although she was awarded $30 million, Cooper, who is now a tenured professor, doesn’t think she will ever see any of the money.

“I would love to get $30 million,” she says. “I would love to give money to research on this. I would love to give money to other survivors.”

But, she says, “I don’t really expect to get anything. That’s not why I did this at all. That’s actually the last reason I did it. But the message of the 30 million is clear. The message that the jury sent, and that’s what I feel so glad about.”

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Broems could not be reached for comment.

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