Bennett Proposal Would Criminalize Intimate Partner Harassment


DOVER – Calling attention to a serious issue of the Information Age, Rep. Andria Bennett unveiled a proposal today that would make it a crime to disseminate video or photos of a person who is naked or engaged in sexual acts without his or her consent.

The cyber trend of posting sexual images or videos of a person without consent also is known as “revenge porn” because it often involves the willful humiliation of a former intimate partner. This draft legislation would expand the existing crime of violation of privacy to include revenge porn or intimate partner harassment.

Rep. Bennett said the prevalence of social media tools such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat, as well as more nefarious web outlets, means that a damaging photo or video can go viral in a matter of hours, causing irreparable harm to a person.

“In today’s world of social media and digital communication, it has become very easy to share information with many people in a short amount of time. As a result of that, this type of behavior has become more and more common — and more and more hurtful to the victims,” said Rep. Bennett, D-Dover. “This isn’t like the days where an embarrassing photo is passed around a class of 30. These intimate photos and videos are posted online and shared around the world – sometimes even with the victim’s name and personal information included. This is the sort of thing that may have seemed harmless before the days of Facebook and Twitter, but which is now capable of severely harming a victim’s quality of life.”

According to the proposal, a person who disseminates a visual depiction of a nude or partially nude person or a person who is engaging in a sexual act would be guilty of a Class B misdemeanor. That charge can be increased to a Class G felony if the photo or video was originally obtained without the victim’s consent, is distributed for profit or is paired with information identifying the person.

According to advocacy group End Revenge Porn, one in 10 ex-partners threatens to expose risqué photos online, and 60 percent of them follow through on that threat. More than half of victims have had personal information posted with photos or videos. Ninety percent of revenge porn victims are women. Nearly half of all victims say they have been harassed or stalked online by people who have seen their material.

Earlier this year, the Pennsylvania State Senate passed legislation creating a similar crime of intimate partner harassment. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, New Jersey and California also have similar laws on the books, while the Illinois and Virginia state legislatures currently are taking up similar measures.