Courts Human Rights

Proposed bill would make revenge porn illegal in Ohio

Photo courtesy of Jim Bowen via Flickr
Written by Delaney Murray

Ohio Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, introduced a new bill last week that would criminalize non-consensual pornography in Ohio.

Non-consensual pornography, commonly known as “revenge porn,” occurs when a person uses nude or intimate images to threaten, harass or embarrass someone else, potentially a former significant other.

According to Senate Bill 353, perpetrators of revenge porn would be charged with a misdemeanor on the first account and a felony on any subsequent account.

The bill focuses not only on punishing the perpetrators, but also protecting the victims.

University students who become victims of revenge porn crimes would not lose scholarships or financial assistance as a result of the shared images, and employees could not be fired or punished at work if any intimate images were shared without consent, according to a press release.

Recently, U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-California, introduced the Intimacy Privacy Protection Act in Congress, which would create a nationwide law against non-consensual pornography, although the bill has yet to be passed. But while voyeurism, child pornography and fraud are all illegal in Ohio, there is no current legislation in place that would punish perpetrators of revenge porn within the state.

Revenge porn is currently illegal in 34 states, according to the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative.

In addition to being inspired by the many other states that have already outlawed revenge porn, Schiavoni was motivated to make the bill a reality in Ohio after hearing several personal stories from victims of these crimes.

“The first time I really saw the seriousness of this was back in 2010 or 2011,” Schiavoni said. “I was dealing with cyberbullying laws and there was a young woman from Cincinnati who sent an image to her boyfriend…they broke up and that boyfriend then sent that image all over the internet in mass text.

“She could never get control of that image, it just kept popping up over and over no matter what they tried to do to corral it, and she ended up committing suicide. That’s not the first or last time that’s occurred.”

Schiavoni also worked closely with other victims to understand the true impact of revenge porn crimes and with prosecutors to determine what kind of law would need to be in place in order to adequately protect victims and punish perpetrators.

There has been concern about one particular element the bill seems to lack. According to Speier, in order to be effective, a bill against revenge porn must also contain an emphasis on there being malicious intent behind the sharing of an intimate image. Schiavoni, however, says there is already language within the bill to combat this.

“In the bill specifically, it does say that the offender knows or reasonably has known that there was not consent, and that the image was obtained under circumstances where a reasonable person would know that image was intended to remain private,” Schiavoni said. “So that’s the key here. We’re using a reasonable person standard. We believe that the prosecutors would be able to apply that reasonable person standard when choosing whether or not there was evidence sufficient enough to make that criminal charge.”

While the bill would provide both protection and punishment for sharing images that were originally sent in private, there are some exemptions from the bill, particularly in the case of publically shared images. Images used in criminal investigations, art or otherwise originally shared in a public space are not protected under the proposed bill.

The bill is still in its early stages, and will undergo initial hearings when the Ohio Senate reconvenes later this fall.

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Delaney Murray

1 Comment

  • My soon to be ex husband has now distributed nudes pictures of me. There is nothing I can do. We have small children. Its terrible. Cmon Ohio… We need this law asap…

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