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Revenge porn bill is limp

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a new bill into law on Oct. 1 that would criminalize “revenge porn” – the distribution of online sexual images of an ex-lover or spouse to harass and humiliate them. Although this is a good step in protecting victims of revenge porn, the law doesn’t go far enough.

SB 255 states that those caught distributing revenge porn can face up to six months in jail or a $1,000 fine on first offense. Revenge porn is legal in all states except New Jersey and California. However, the bill only protects those whose photos or videos were taken without their knowledge or consent, not the victims with self-taken material.

The Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, a non-profit organization established by Holly Jacobs, revenge porn victim and the founder of the End Revenge Porn campaign, conducted a survey that found 80 percent of published revenge porn photos and videos were self-shot.

Jacobs, who was a victim of years of online abuse after her ex-boyfriend publicly posted her intimate photos and videos, would not even be protected under this law because she shot the material of herself.

“I can understand (the victims’) concerns with the final bill, but at least we got people talking about it,” said Anthony Cannella, the Republican state senator who wrote SB 255. “Then we can do more in the future.”

Cannella said the bill originally included protection for the victims who took photos and videos of themselves, but why was that part ultimately removed from the final bill? A majority of the victims’ photos and videos posted on revenge porn sites are self-shot – overlooking this fact creates a loophole in SB 255.

Many who speak in defense of the bill would say it is the person’s fault and responsibility that he or she took these pictures or videos in the first place, and the only solution to prevent revenge porn distribution would be to completely abstain from taking intimate shots. However, abstinence would not be successful in a world where technology and sexuality are so strongly linked.

One bill drafter called people who take intimate self-shots “stupid,” Jacobs said. SB 255 is unable to expand because of underlying elements of “victim-blaming.”

“It’s the same thing as telling someone who’s been physically raped that they shouldn’t have been wearing that skirt,” Jacobs said.

Intimate sexual photos and videos are exchanged between two people in a relationship with the impression that the other person would keep them private. To seek revenge with the intent of hurting and humiliating an ex-partner by posting such private material is immature and emotionally damaging to the victim.

Having “people (talk) about it” is simply not enough. Though SB 255 is a recognizable step in protecting these victims, it is not a particularly large and effective one. The bill should be reevaluated and rewritten to include every victim of revenge porn.

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