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State Legislature unanimously approves revenge porn bill

The bill makes disseminating sexually explicit images a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail. 

A view of the New York state Capitol

A view of the New York state Capitol in Albany on Jan. 15. Photo Credit: AP/Hans Pennink

ALBANY — Sen. Monica R. Martinez said her experience as assistant principal at Brentwood’s East Middle School helping an 11-year-old girl deal with the dissemination of intimate images of herself over the internet led to Thursday’s passage of a landmark bill to make revenge porn a crime in New York.

“This little girl suffered so much in such a short period of time, and she was just 11 years old,” Martinez (D-Brentwood) said before the State Legislature unanimously passed her measure.

The measure will make the dissemination of sexually explicit images a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail. It also will pave a route for civil action and for victims to petition a court to force the removal of the images from websites with the help of major internet companies such as Google, if necessary.

“Victims of revenge porn are often harassed, stalked … some victims even commit suicide,” said Assemb. Edward C. Braunstein (D-Bayside), the bill’s Assembly sponsor.

The Democrat-led Assembly, as it has in past years, approved the bill 104-0 Thursday. The Democrat-led Senate approved the bill 60-0, and it was sent to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who is expected to sign it into law.

Martinez said nearly 10 million Americans are estimated to have been victims of revenge porn to some degree, often by scorned partners. Victims have faced years of re-victimization through porn sites and revenge porn sites, advocates said, and the results have included humiliation, job loss, forced relocation and name changing, losses of relationships, depression and suicide.

Cuomo has proposed revenge porn bills for years. “This disgusting and insidious behavior, which can follow victims around their entire lives, has no place in New York,” he said.

Brooklyn attorney Carrie Goldberg, a revenge porn victim who now sues abusers, said one website included enough victims to fill Yankee Stadium 50 times.

“My clients describe it as an inescapable nightmare,” Goldberg said.

“This violence seems to cripple the soul," said Sen. James Sanders Jr. (D-Queens).

One of the roadblocks to the bill had been a concern that youths could be snared by it and carry a misdemeanor that would haunt them in their academic and professional lives forever. The final version of the bill applies the crime to all ages, but the cases of youths would be handled in Family Court, where the result could be kept private or could include sanctions other than a misdemeanor.

“There are so many things our students are facing. This is something they shouldn’t have to face,” Martinez said. Martinez is a freshman senator and this was the first bill of hers to be passed.

New York is the 41st state, along with Washington, D.C., to make revenge porn a crime.

“As times change, we go more with social media … we need to make sure we evolve with the technology,” said Sen. Jamaal Bailey (D-Bronx), chairman of the powerful Codes Committee where differences in the bill were resolved Tuesday. “You can see what a unified state government can do.”

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