NEW YORK – The New York City Council today voted unanimously to pass Intro. 1267, landmark legislation that criminalizes “revenge porn” in New York City.

“Revenge porn” is a 21st century form of sexual assault used by perpetrators to embarrass or humiliate victims. According to the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, 38 states plus the District of Columbia currently have laws specifically to combat “revenge porn.” While the consequences of “revenge porn” can be devastating for victims, neither New York State nor New York City had laws on the books to protect New Yorkers or hold perpetrators accountable.

The legislation the Council passed today — inspired a state bill by Assemblyman Edward Braunstein — makes it a misdemeanor offense in New York City to disclose, or threaten to disclose, intimate images of another person without consent and with the intent to cause harm. The offense would be punishable by up to one year in jail, a $1,000 fine, or both. The bill also creates a civil cause of action to provide any individual victimized by “revenge porn” with the opportunity to seek compensatory and punitive damages, injunctive relief, and attorneys’ fees.

“With passage of this landmark legislation, New York City finally calls revenge porn exactly what it is: a crime,” said Council Member Rory I. Lancman. “For too long, our laws failed to keep up with our technology, leaving victims of revenge porn unable to seek justice and hold perpetrators accountable. That changes today. Criminalizing revenge porn will ensure New Yorkers are protected and those who take part in this despicable conduct will face serious consequences. I commend the victim advocates, law enforcement personnel and revenge porn survivors who raised their voices to make this day a reality.”

“With a click of a mouse, careers are put in jeopardy, relationships are damaged, and online harassment becomes a daily battle — all because of revenge porn,” said Council Member Dan Garodnick. “Today we send a message to bullies and domestic abusers that this vile behavior is unacceptable — and now criminal — in New York City.”

“I would like to commend Council Member Lancman and the City Council for passing legislation to criminalize revenge porn at the city level,” said Assemblyman Edward Braunstein. “The non-consensual disclosure of sexually explicit images has damaged the lives of countless New Yorkers. This new law will help to curb the practice through the imposition of criminal penalties. I will continue to push legislation in Albany to protect victims of revenge porn throughout New York State.”

In April 2017, the Public Safety Committee held a hearing to formally consider the legislation. The Committee heard testimony from District Attorneys and advocates, along with the New York Police Department, which offered its support for making “revenge porn” a crime in New York City.

Prior to today’s City Council vote, Council Member Lancman held a press conference along with Assemblyman Braunstein, victim advocates, law enforcement and a “revenge porn” survivor, to tout the importance of the legislation.

“For years, prosecutors have been frustrated by gaps in the law leaving us unable to effectively respond to a serious problem we have seen with increasing regularity,” said Eric Rosenbaum, Deputy Chief, Special Victims Bureau and Chief of DNA Prosecutions at the Office of the Queens County District Attorney. “When two people in a trusting relationship share an intimate image that they expect will remain private, it is simply wrong when one of the parties uses the image to inflict devastating financial or emotional harm out of spite when the relationship ends.  Thanks to Council Member Lancman’s leadership in crafting this  bill, and the City Council’s vote to make it the law of New York City, Special Victims and Computer Crimes prosecutors across the city hope that would-be offenders will now be deterred from unlawfully disseminating intimate images that were intended to remain private.  But should someone choose to use an intimate image to harm another person, police and prosecutors finally have a tool to hold offenders accountable.”

“At Sanctuary for Families, we have seen firsthand the harm that cyber sexual abuse inflicts on our clients, survivors of domestic violence and trafficking,” said Hon. Judy Harris Kluger, Executive Director at Sanctuary for Families. “The nonconsensual sharing of sexually explicit images is one of the most damaging, humiliating and often permanent ways that an abusive partner has to threaten and maintain control over a victim.  We thank the New York City Council for passing legislation that criminalizes this despicable act.”

“Safe Horizon, the nation’s leading victim assistance organization, commends Council Member Rory Lancman for his efforts to address gaping holes in our laws which fail to adequately protect victims of revenge pornography,” said Michael Polenberg, VP of Government Affairs, Safe Horizon. “As the use of technology continues to evolve, our laws must also evolve to respond more forcefully to those who brazenly share intimate images or videos of individuals without their consent. While State legislation will ultimately address this issue on a broader scale, Council Member Lancman’s bill is a good first step to offer protections to victims of revenge pornography in New York City. Safe Horizon thanks Speaker Mark-Viverito and the full City Council for passing this legislation and we urge the Mayor to sign it into law as soon as possible.”

“While there is essential work still to be done, particularly to protect young people who are victimized by non-consensual pornography, this bill takes an important step toward recognizing the harm that is done to victims,” said Andrew Sta. Ana, Director of Legal Services at Day One. “This bill creates creates meaningful criminal and civil remedies to address this unique form of violence.”

 

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