Congressman Malinowski Leads Letter Demanding Action on Legislation Combatting Revenge Porn

November 1, 2019
Press Release

(Washington, DC) Today, Congressman Malinowski led a group of lawmakers in a letter asking leadership of the Judiciary Committee to move forward on legislation that will address the increase in distribution of nonconsensual pornography (NCP), also known as “revenge porn”. The letter is in response to the recent extreme circumstances surrounding the resignation of Congresswoman Katie Hill.

“In an increasingly digital world, anyone can become a victim of this egregious privacy violation. But we would be remiss if we did not acknowledge that revenge porn, as a tactic of sexual degradation and public shaming, is disproportionally used against women to attack their character and undermine their credibility,” the lawmakers wrote.

See below for the text of the letter and a copy here.

Dear Chairman Nadler and Chairwoman Bass:

We write to you regarding the extreme circumstances surrounding the resignation of Congresswoman Katie Hill. While we do not condone inappropriate sexual relationships with subordinates, we cannot ignore that Congresswoman Hill was also a victim of what is colloquially termed “revenge porn” but is more accurately described as nonconsensual pornography (NCP): the distribution of private, intimate images without consent. This abuse, especially when weaponized on the internet, can destroy a person’s life with the click of a button.

In an increasingly digital world, anyone can become a victim of this egregious privacy violation. But we would be remiss if we did not acknowledge that revenge porn, as a tactic of sexual degradation and public shaming, is disproportionally used against women to attack their character and undermine their credibility. Even when nonconsensual pornography is circulated for reasons other than personal vengeance—for prurient satisfaction, crass entertainment, or no particular purpose at all—it can be extremely painful, leading to the destruction of careers and relationships, serious emotional distress, and contemplation of suicide.

Currently, forty-six states and the District of Columbia criminalize NCP. However, the definition of NCP and the penalties associated with this violation varies significantly from state to state. Many of them include unnecessary and confusing requirements that allow many forms of NCP to go unpunished. In addition, the distribution of NCP through the internet presents jurisdictional challenges. Clear and concise federal regulation can complement and coordinate local efforts to stamp out NCP. A unified federal statute is long overdue.

It is vital that the House Judiciary Committee swiftly move forward with H.R. 2896, the Stopping Harmful Image Exploitation and Limiting Distribution Act of 2019 (the “SHIELD Act”). This bipartisan legislation would narrowly establish federal criminal liability for individuals who share private, intimate images without consent. If a person shares a nude image, knowing there is a substantial risk that that the person depicted does not consent and had an expectation of privacy, that would be a federal crime. The SHIELD Act is an important step towards helping victims protect their privacy, get justice, and keep themselves safe from future violations.

We urge you to hold a hearing on the damage being done by the widespread scourge of NCP and move this legislation forward.