{{featured_button_text}}
Child Victims Act

Members of the New York Senate vote in the Senate Chamber at the state Capitol on Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

New York state legislators passed a bill on Thursday to criminalize the distribution of "revenge porn" and provide victims with the option of suing the individuals who post intimate images without their consent. 

The legislation sponsored by state Sen. Monica Martinez and Assemblyman Ed Braunstein defines revenge porn — the "criminal act of unlawful dissemination or publication of an intimate image when done with the intent to cause harm to the emotional, financial or physical welfare of another person when the image was taken with a reasonable expectation that the image would remain private" — and makes it a class A misdemeanor offense to circulate the images. 

An individual convicted of disseminating revenge porn could face up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. 

The measure differs from revenge porn laws in other states by giving victims the option of seeking civil cases against those who disseminate sexual images against their will. 

Martinez, a Long Island Democrat, cited a study that estimated 10 million Americans are victims of revenge porn. As a Suffolk County legislator last year, she led an effort to crack down on revenge porn in her home county. 

"This legislation will empower victims," Martinez said at a press conference in Albany. 

There have been dueling revenge porn bills in the state Legislature over the last several years. Braunstein sponsored the Assembly version that included the provision allowing victims to pursue civil or criminal cases. A separate bill in the Senate that was introduced by state Sen. Phil Boyle would've made distributing revenge porn a crime, but it wouldn't give victims the option of suing the perpetrators. 

When Republicans controlled the state Senate, they passed Boyle's bill but didn't consider Braunstein's proposal. In the Democratic-led Assembly, Braunstein's bill advanced and Boyle's measure didn't receive a vote. Due to disagreement over whether to include the civil provision, an agreement on the revenge bill porn remained elusive. 

The status of the bills changed this year when Democrats took over control of the state Senate. Martinez introduced a revenge porn measure that mirrored Braunstein's bill. The Assembly passed the bill by a 104-0 vote. The state Senate followed and the legislation passed by a 60-0 vote. 

"These types of images should be kept private and sharing them without consent is malicious and unacceptable," Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. "We're in a new era where information is shared through social media and we must do everything in our power to protect people from this heinous violation of privacy." 

For advocates, passage of the legislation is a major achievement. Carrie Goldberg, a victims' rights attorney and advisory board member for the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, highlighted how revenge porn affects New Yorkers. She revealed that the number of times intimate images of New Yorkers had been viewed on an undisclosed website could fill Yankee Stadium 50 times. 

Goldberg praised the New York bill because it allows victims to pursue civil cases against those who post images without their consent. 

"My clients describe (revenge porn) as an inescapable nightmare, and it is," Goldberg said. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has indicated that he will sign the bill. Criminalizing the dissemination of revenge porn is part of his Women's Justice Agenda. 

It's not a new concept for Cuomo. He wanted to outlaw revenge porn in the past, but an agreement couldn't be reached. 

"This disgusting and insidious behavior, which can follow victims around their entire lives, has no place in New York," he said. 

Subscribe to Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

3
0
0
0
0