Senate passes ‘revenge porn’ bill

The Senate unanimously approved a bill that establishes criminal penalties for sharing sexually explicit images without the consent of the subject Thursday.

H.105 seeks to clamp down on so-called “revenge porn” — when an ex-lover posts intimate photos of a former partner on the Internet as a form of retribution. The images are sometimes accompanied by the subject’s name or contact information.

Disclosure of the image could come with a $2,000 fine and two years in prison. If the person who posted the image did so for profit, they would face a fine of up to $10,000 and up to five years in prison.


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The Senate Judiciary Committee revised the House version of the bill to require proof that there was intention to harm the victim and that the disclosure would cause “a reasonable person” to suffer.

Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, said before the second reading on the Senate floor Wednesday that he did not expect to vote for the bill when it was introduced, but he changed his mind as the committee took testimony and reworked language in the legislation.

“Things that we never would have thought would happen 10 years ago are happening,” Sears said after the bill passed on third reading Thursday.

Rep. Barbara Rachelson, D-Burlington, who sponsored the bill, said she had not had a chance to look closely at the new language in the Senate version, but she had concerns that the bill would overburden the victim.

“A lot of victims don’t want to come forward because it’s hard,” Rachelson said.

Rachelson said that disclosure of a social security number is recognized as a criminal act. She wondered why the same should not be true of intimate photos.

The Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union proposed some of the language that the Senate adopted, but the director, Allen Gilbert, said the group continues to believe that revenge porn is best handled in civil, not criminal court.

If the bill is signed into law, Gilbert says the statute may be challenged in court.

More than a dozen other states have similar laws against revenge porn.

The House Judiciary Committee will review the Senate version of the bill later this week, and decide whether to adopt it or to send it to a conference committee.

Elizabeth Hewitt

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