Revenge porn is defined as the dissemination of sexually explicit images of an ex-lover without their permission. It can often be emotionally devastating and have lasting effects on a person's reputation and employability.
That's exactly what Nicole Coon, a 25-year-old Virginia nursing student, experienced last November when she found a sexually explicit video of herself on the Internet. Coon had filmed and sent the video to her boyfriend of 8 years; however, once the relationship went sour he allegedly posted the video online. The website where he allegedly posted advertises as a platform for revenge porn.
Coon's sexuality - intended only for the eyes of her partner - was now being seen by family, friends, and potential employers.
The nursing student fears for her future employment opportunities.
Virginia Delegate Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church) wants to deter this behavior in his state. He introduced House Bill 49 last December that would make revenge porn a state crime. Since then his bill has been incorporated into Delegate Robert Bell's (R-Charlottesville) House Bill 326. Bell's legislation overwhelmingly passed both chambers and was signed by Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe in March.
The legislation will go into effect this July and makes it unlawful for "any person who, with the intent to coerce, harass, or intimidate, maliciously disseminates or sells" an image which depicts another person in a "state of undress" where "such person knows or has reason to know that he is not licensed or authorized" to disseminate. The new law classifies any violation as a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by a fine and up to a year in jail.
Virginia, Utah, and Idaho have all enacted legislation this year criminalizing revenge porn; they join New Jersey and California which were the first states to do so. Nineteen other states have proposed similar legislation.
While most people sympathize with the victims, some fear criminalizing this behavior will have dire consequences on constitutionally protected free speech.
"The Supreme Court's position, rightly, is that all speech is by default protected by the First Amendment," says Lee Rowland of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
About 6 minutes.
Produced by Amanda Winkler. Camera by Joshua Swain, Jim Epstein, and Winkler. Narrated by Alexis Garcia.
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