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Nassau lawmakers propose bill making 'revenge porn' illegal

Individuals who post intimate sexual images of a former partner without their consent — a practice known as revenge porn — could soon face jail time and a harsh fine under new legislation proposed by two Democratic Nassau County legislators.

The bill, filed Monday by Legis. Arnold Drucker (D-Plainview) and Legis. Debra Mulé (D-Freeport), would make it a misdemeanor to share sexually explicit photos or videos without the person's consent. 

The measure, which closely mirrors legislation that passed last year in Suffolk County and in New York City in 2017, calls for jail time of up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. The law also provides a groundwork whereby victims could sue the perpetrator for damages and other relief.

“This behavior is intended to bring personal and professional humiliation that causes profound physical and emotional harm,” Drucker said.

Mulé said the legislation is needed to protect victims, often young women, and hold their assailants responsible for their actions.

"This is a real problem and it requires this type of legislation to rectify it," she said.

The Nassau bill, which has yet to be put on the legislative calendar, would need support from the GOP majority to pass from committee to the full 19-member legislature. 

"We agree with the premise of the legislation," said Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park).  "At this moment, our legal counsel is reviewing it to determine whether it is a local or a state matter.” 

Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas, a Democrat who supports the bill, said the state has failed to criminally address revenge pornography, requiring action on the local level.

“Domestic violence cases involve power, control and manipulation, and abusers regularly use revenge pornography to target their intimate partners," Singas said. "As prosecutors, we frequently work with survivors who are being threatened with having their pictures sent to their job, family or posted on social media."

Laura Ahearn, executive director of the Ronkonkoma-based Crime Victims Center and Parents of Megan’s Law, estimated that some 10 million people nationally have been threatened or victimized by revenge porn.

In one case, Ahearn said, a Long Island woman’s ex-boyfriend, angry about their breakup, first sent explicit pictures to her friends and later to her school district, where she was a teacher. The woman was later terminated when the school district became aware of the images, she said.

Victims of revenge porn, Ahearn said, are often threatened with sexual assault, stalked, harassed and are at a greater risk of suicide.

"This will finally provide some relief to the victims who have been forced to suffer in silence," Ahearn said. "Finally, victims have some type of recourse and a weapon to fight back."

The State Senate passed a "revenge porn" bill last year but it did not come up for a vote in the Democrat-controlled Assembly.

The measure could be revived in the coming months. Sen. Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood) introduced a bill last week to strengthen protections for victims of revenge porn. A companion bill was introduced by Assemb. Edward Braunstein (D-Queens).

Forty-one states and the District of Columbia have already adopted revenge porn laws.

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