State legislators move to ban ‘revenge porn’

Bailey Williams, Assistant City Editor

Representatives in the Illinois General Assembly introduced a new bipartisan bill last month that would ban “revenge porn,” the publication of sexually explicit pictures without the consent of the person depicted.

“It is a very important issue for the state of Illinois to address,” said State Rep. Scott Drury (D-Highwood), who introduced the bill. “I’m proud to be at the forefront of a cutting-edge issue.”

Drury introduced the bill, H.B. 4320, to the Illinois House of Representatives at the end of January. Drury explained that revenge porn happens after a sexually intimate couple breaks up and one person decides to publicize sexually explicit photos without the other person’s consent. Drury said the act “overwhelmingly victimizes women.” About 90 percent of revenge porn victims are women, according to End Revenge Porn, a campaign working to criminalize the action. In addition, one in 10 ex-partners threaten to publish sexually explicit photos of their ex, and about 60 percent of those follow through on that threat, according to the campaign. 

If the bill is passed, revenge porn would be classified as a felony. As the bill is currently written, conviction would result in a three-year sentence, a clause that is subject to revision. Drury said legislators are looking at existing penalties to see if the statute is fair. New Jersey and California both criminalized revenge porn last year. 

The Illinois bill has drawn a number of co-sponsors from both parties. State Reps. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) and Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) considered the role of advancing technology when deciding to co-sponsor the bill.

Cassidy has worked on an anti-bullying bill that failed to pass in 2012, said Matthew Muir, district office director for Cassidy. He said “seeing the impact that bullying can have” nationally and statewide motivated Cassidy to get behind the revenge porn bill.

Wheeler explained when she was young, she heard “stranger danger” warnings, but today, situations are different. Being able to share private information is becoming a very prominent issue, Wheeler said.

“It’s a great lesson to learn early on for kids … to be careful,” Wheeler said. 

Wheeler added revenge porn is a serious offense that adults should be held accountable for.

“I think we all have a personal accountability towards our actions,” Wheeler said. “We also have a sense of responsibility.”

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