Kathryn Xian is head of GirlFest and the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery.
Kathryn Xian is head of GirlFest and the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery

IMUAlliance and Girl Fest Hawaii are sponsoring legislation for the 2014 legislative session to outlaw nonconsensual distribution of sexually explicit images, commonly called “revenge porn.” If passed, the proposal would subject any person who disseminates a representation of a nude person, a person engaging in sexual contact, or a person engaging in sexual penetration without the consent of the person represented to penalties for a misdemeanor offense and a fine of not less than $1,000.

“As technology becomes smarter, faster, and more portable, the ability to use technology to humiliate people becomes easier,” said IMUAlliance legislative director Kris Coffield. “We must take a stand to protect people’s personal and professional integrity.”

“We were put on notice about this emerging violation when people approached us with their stories of abuse, embarrassment, stalking, and coercion,” said Girl Fest Hawaii Non-Executive Director Kathryn Xian. “It’s not only a new form of abuse, but a method of control and retaliation that needs a legal deterrent.”

Currently, there is no state law to prevent exes from sharing explicit photos after a bad breakup, employees from transmitting embarrassing images of their colleagues after workplace feuds, or patrons of prostitution from publishing on the Internet photos of sex-trafficking victims whom they’ve paid for sex, to name just a few cases that would be covered by the bill.

“While the most frequent example of revenge porn involves disgruntled lovers, this bill goes far beyond failed romances,” said Coffield. “Jealous coworkers, angry friends, and johns all commit emotional terrorism to intimidate their victims.”

“This ‘revenge porn’ is most harmful to adolescents who seek acceptance and worry about what others think of them. Internet bullying has already proved to be a significant factor in cases of nationally publicized teen suicides in recent years. Nude pictures sent over the internet without consent exacerbates the trauma and is something that is almost impossible to rescind once distributed,” said Xian.

House Vice Speaker John Mizuno has agreed to introduce and request a Senate companion for this measure. Lawmakers in California, New Jersey and Wisconsin have passed similar bills, while New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington are among other states considering “revenge porn” bans. The Honolulu Prosecutor’s legislative package also includes a more limited “revenge porn” proposal. Unlike IMUAlliance’s and Girl Fest Hawaii’s bill, the prosecutor’s proposal would not apply to representations of sexual contact or sexual intercourse that omit explicit images of genitalia, nor would it apply to audio recordings or crimes committed by persons who distribute but do not create “revenge porn,” thus leaving many targets exposed to future victimization.

“If a person takes an explicit photo of themselves and sends it to their lover under the assumption it will be private, but their lover instead posts it online, that crime would not be covered by the prosecutor’s proposal,” said Coffield. “Covering all forms of abuse by anyone who may be an abuser is the only ethically and legally responsible approach this problem.”

“We live in rapidly changing times and we must address these emerging crimes swiftly and seriously to prevent a culture of complicity to abuse,” said Xian.

IMUAlliance is a nonpartisan political advocacy organization with over 60 members, devoted to the protection of democratic ideals, empowerment of everyday citizens, eradication of social and economic inequality, and animation of critical engagement with current events.
GiRL FeST Hawaii is an all-volunteer program of the Safe Zone Foundation, a Hawaii-based 501c3 whose mission is to prevent violence against women and girls through education and art.

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