Legislation aims to outlaw revenge porn

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If passed, Kansas H.R. 2062 will prevent people from sending or publishing compromising images of another without their permission. (Photo Illustration by George Walker | The Collegian)

On Jan. 21, Rep. Sydney Carlin, D-Manhattan, presented H.R. 2062 to the House Appropriations Committee. This proposed legislation is working toward outlawing revenge pornography, the online posting of nude photographs or video of an ex-spouse or significant other without consent.

Rep. Carlin began working on this bill last summer after a constituent’s neighbor approached her. The victim’s husband had posted photos of her, taken during their marriage, online on at least one website.

“I learned that this happens a lot,” Carlin said. “Women and men have been videotaped and fallen victim of this kind of crime.”

Not only do these photos show the victim in a compromising position, they also can contain identifying information. Plus, removing these photographs from websites comes at a high cost.

H.R. 2062 will criminalize the person who posts the photo and the person who hosts the website on which the photo is posted.

Jenna Tripodi, co-coordinator at K-State’s Center for Advocacy, Response and Education, explained that revenge porn is happening more frequently, especially now that young individuals are so reliant on their phones. This situation was experienced by a K-State student who requested anonymity regarding her high school experience.

After dating a boy for almost a year, the student and her boyfriend broke up. Then she began to show interest in another boy. When her ex-boyfriend found out, he sent a nude photo of her, taken during their relationship, to some of his friends.

“When his friends got the picture, they were all talking about it and would say stuff to me about the picture,” She said. “I felt pretty awful knowing that I made a mistake sending the pictures, but more of a mistake trusting the person that had the pictures.”

That photograph did not make it onto the Internet, nor was the ex-boyfriend charged criminally. Regardless, she supports the passing of the bill.

“I think (this bill) makes sense because you had once trusted the person that had the picture, and so you trusted them not to do anything with it,” She said. “So then once they do and betray your trust, and it’s also a crime, so it makes sense that there is punishment.”

This crime, according to Tripodi, should never be blamed on the victim.

“It’s our office’s stance that it’s never the fault of the victim for anything we talk about,” Tripodi said in reference to those who request assistance from CARE.

H.R. 2062 will criminalize the person who posts the photo and the person who hosts the website on which the photo is posted. Currently only a few states, including New Jersey and California, have an active revenge porn law or clause. The action of revenge porn is not yet a federal offense.

When asked if she foresees introducing any additional legislation involving the non-consensual posting of photos or videos, Carlin said she hopes this bill will cover all grounds.

“Hopefully we will take care of it in this bill and we won’t need future bills,” Carlin said. “People have amazing talents about finding ways around laws.”

Tripodi, though, said she believes that general sharing, not just Internet sharing of the photo, needs to be addressed.

“The only thing that does (prevent general sharing) is if the individual is under the age of 18,” Triodi said. “You can be charged with child pornography depending on what state you live in, depending on the child, depending on your age.”

Carlin was not the only representative who crafted a bill focused on revenge porn. Rep. Stephanie Clayton, R-Overland Park, introduced a similar bill the following day. Both bills are currently sitting together in committee where amendments are already being introduced.

Companies such as Cox Communications and AT&T; Inc. want to protect the companies hosting the website the photo or video is posted to. Another amendment would protect law enforcement and other involuntary kinds of exposure.

CARE expresses that revenge porn is becoming a more prominent type of revenge, as well as a way to maintain power within relationships in society today.

“It’s something we see a lot through this office, but haven’t really heard it talked about very much, like outside,” Tripodi said. “I think people don’t put a name to what’s happening.”

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