The Legislature took a first step Thursday toward making “revenge porn” a 3rd degree felony.
The House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee voted 6-1 to pass HB71 by Rep. Marie Poulson, D-Cottonwood Heights, and sent it to the full House.
It would outlaw distributing “intimate images,” such as partial nudity or sexual conduct, of someone without consent and with intent to cause emotional distress or harm. Poulson said such images are often posted online or sent digitally after a couple separates — and now is not clearly illegal.
“Families and lives are destroyed. Victims are harassed. They have to change schools. They lose their jobs. Some have committed suicide,” Poulson said.
She read a letter from a victim who was 19 and in college when a former boyfriend first started distributing such images.
“It nearly destroyed me,” the letter said. “There was no law to stop the person from continuing to assault me both emotionally and by reputation.”
It added that 12 years later and after spending thousands of dollars to obtain a restraining order, the victim still lives in fear “that this psychotic predator … might continue to get away with this crime that he has yet to be punished for.”
Poulson said she taught school for years and saw many young people “naively and unwisely” sharing images. “We’ve all been young and dumb sometimes,” but said that should not destroy lives.
Rep. Craig Hall, R-West Valley City, a co-sponsor of the bill, said sharing images “between a consenting couple is perfectly legal … but there is an expectation of privacy” that it won’t be sent to others — and doing so should be outlawed.
Rep. Dana Layton, R-Orem, warned that it is still unwise to share such photos with anyone, because control is easily lost. “There are natural consequences to behavior that sometimes we can’t undo,” she said.