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February 12, 2015

House takes up bill on “revenge porn”

By Elizabeth Hewitt, VTDigger.org

A new bill in the House takes aim at so-called “revenge porn.” Introduced to the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Feb. 3, H.105 would make illegal the disclosure of sexually explicit images of a person without the subject’s consent.

The practice, a hot issue on the national stage, is termed “revenge porn” because it often involves jilted lovers posting sexually explicit images on websites as a way to get back at an ex.

H.105 builds on an existing statute on voyeurism. The bill would prohibit the dissemination of a photograph or video of a subject in stages of undress or engaged in sexual activity without the subject’s permission.

The bill also extends penalties to images that are digitally altered to make someone appear to be engaging in sexual conduct—putting someone’s head onto a different body, for instance.

Rep. Kesha Ram, D-Burlington, one of the bill’s sponsors, introduced the legislation. Similar legislation has been introduced in Vermont in the past but the bills have failed because revenge porn wasn’t perceived to be a big issue for Vermonters.

“I’m here to tell you that I feel that this bill will affect many lives in Vermont,” Ram told the committee.

California was the first state to make revenge porn illegal in 2013. Since then, 12 more states have adopted similar legislation.

One of the difficulties in drafting legislation is that often the photograph is taken consensually or is a self-taken photo. The problem lies with who is responsible for sharing the material, Ram said.

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