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Nebraska among last states to approve ‘revenge porn’ law

March 10, 2019

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska has long been one of the few states without a “revenge porn” law, but new proposals being considered by lawmakers would end that status and make it easier to file charges against people who post pornographic images of others online without their permission.

Although prosecutors might have been able to find ways to file charges for posting such images under current law, Nebraska is among seven states that have not directly addressed the issue, according to the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, a national nonprofit that tracks the issue in state legislatures.

That could change under either of two bills scheduled for a legislative hearing Wednesday.

“This happens every day to people,” said Sen. Megan Hunt, who introduced one of the bills. “It happens to high schoolers. It happens to college kids. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anybody under 30 who doesn’t know somebody who has been affected by this.”

The bill from Hunt, of Omaha, would bar people from transmitting or posting sexual photographs online without the permission of the person who’s depicted.

First-time violators could face a misdemeanor charge, while repeat offenders could be charged with a felony. Perpetrators also would have to register as a sex offender if they were 19 or older at the time and the victim was younger than 18 years old.

Another bill by Sen. Adam Morfeld, of Lincoln, would impose felony charges on anyone who knowingly distributes pornographic footage or photos taken without consent.

Hunt said the prevalence of text messaging and social media and a lack of education about healthy sexual relationships make younger people especially susceptible. The images can haunt victims for years anytime employers, relatives or romantic partners search for their name online.

Morfeld said technology and online dating have evolved so quickly that state laws haven’t kept pace.

“We need to create the expectation that sending explicit photos of somebody without their consent is a serious crime,” he said.

Domestic violence and sexual assault groups have seen an uptick in such reports over the last few years.

Many cases involve men who threaten to release pornographic images for leverage in a custody battle or if their girlfriend or wife is trying to leave them. In others, men share pornographic images months after a relationship has ended and the material spreads on its own.

“It’s been on our radar for quite a while as something that needs to change,” said Robert Sanford, legal director of the Nebraska Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence. “In the last year, it has come up much more consistently.”

Forty-three states and the District of Columbia have passed laws cracking down on revenge porn, according to the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative. The list includes all of Nebraska’s neighboring states except for Wyoming.

A survey conducted by the group in 2017 found that nearly 16 percent of women and 10 percent of men reported that they had been threatened or victimized by nonconsensual pornography.

Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens signed that state’s revenge porn law last year, hours before he left office amid allegations that he threatened to distribute a nonconsensual photo of a partially nude woman with whom he had an affair. Greitens acknowledged having the affair in 2015 but denied criminal wrongdoing.

Last month, Nebraska football running back Maurice Washington III was charged in California on accusations that he possessed and distributed video of his former girlfriend allegedly being sexually assaulted by two people in 2016.

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