February 28, 2019

Assembly Passes Legislation Criminalizing Revenge Porn

Speaker Carl Heastie and Assemblymember Edward C. Braunstein announced that the Assembly today passed legislation to criminalize the unlawful dissemination and publication of intimate images, commonly referred to as revenge porn, and also provide victims with a civil private right of action (A.5981, Braunstein).

"No one - absolutely no one - should be subjected to having their most intimate moments blasted across the internet without their consent," Speaker Heastie said. "Today's legislation will ensure that people who illegally publish the intimate images of others are held accountable for their reprehensible actions. I'm glad we could work with our friends and colleagues in the Senate to give victims of revenge porn the justice they deserve."

"Revenge porn is a pervasive problem that often results in victims being threatened with sexual assault, stalked, harassed, or fired from jobs," said Assemblymember Braunstein. "Some victims have even committed suicide due to the severe emotional pain. The passage of this legislation sends a strong message that individuals who engage in this type of reprehensible behavior will be held accountable for their actions. I would like to thank Carrie Goldberg from the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, as well as the advocates at Sanctuary for Families and the Cyber Sexual Abuse Task Force, for their tireless advocacy on this important issue."

"Sharing someone's most personal images without their consent causes damage not only to the victim's reputation but emotional, physical and financial distress," said Assemblymember Lentol. "This bill will criminalize this despicable act and give victims legal recourse to seek injunctive relief and damages against the individual responsible."

Today's bill would criminalize the unlawful dissemination or publishing of intimate images without the subjects' consent, and with the intent to cause emotional, financial or physical harm to another person. The legislation would also create a private right of action for victims to pursue damages and injunctive relief against the individual and ask a judge to order websites to remove the images. This right of action would work in conjunction with the criminal law, but would not require a conviction or charge in order to proceed. Under the new legislation, victims of revenge porn would have the choice to pursue a criminal case, a civil case or both.

Often, these images are posted with disparaging descriptions and identifying information, such as the address or employer of the victim. Posting revenge porn is damaging to the reputation of the victims, and they are often victimized a second time with harassment, threats of sexual assault, stalking and even being fired from their jobs.

"This law puts sexual privacy where it belongs - in the hands of New Yorkers. I started my firm in 2014 to fight for victims of sexual assault and stalking because I couldn't find a lawyer when I was under attack by a vengeful ex threatening to spread pictures of me. And over the last five years, hundreds of New Yorkers have sought our help when they suffered the humiliation and backlash from their most private moments being posted on the internet and social media for the world to see. Some lost jobs; others were blackmailed and stalked by strangers. We are grateful for the tenacity of Assemblyman Edward Braunstein, the original architect of this law and ongoing champion. He's a privacy hero. Finally, victims of the most intimate kind of violation can seek criminal redress, a restraining order, and justice from our civil courts," Carrie Goldberg, an advisory board member at Cyber Civil Rights Initiative.

"At Sanctuary for Families, we have seen the devastating damage that cyber sexual abuse has caused our clients and their frustration and outrage that so little can be done to punish their abusers," said Hon. Judy Harris Kluger, executive director of Sanctuary for Families, New York's leading advocate and provider of services for survivors of gender-based violence. "We are proud of the extraordinary contributions that Sanctuary's staff have made in shaping this bill and are grateful to Assemblymember Braunstein and his colleagues in Albany for their leadership. Thanks to today's vote, victims of cyber sexual abuse in New York State will finally have the legal recourse to seek relief from the flood of horrific online harassment that they have long been denied. We hope that the Governor will act quickly to sign this measure into law."