SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah lawmaker wants to make it illegal to distribute "intimate images" as a way to harm a previous spouse or significant other.
HB71, introduced Monday at the Utah Legislature by Rep. Marie Poulson, D-Salt Lake City, would make distributing personal images without the subject’s consent a third-degree felony.
The legislation addresses what Poulson calls the "insidious practice" of non-consensual pornography or “revenge porn” — explicit photos and videos being made public, often by posting them on the Internet, by a trusted person.
"It covers a situation where perhaps a couple in their relationship have shared private pictures and then have a breakup, and the one side of the couple will post those pictures that we designate as pornography in order to get revenge or to target or hurt or destroy the other person," she said.
Poulson said the bill also refers to content captured without the subject's knowledge.
For now, a person can sue for civil damages, a process that Poulson said is expensive, time-consuming and sometimes exposes a person to further victimization.
"While the victims of this can be of both sexes … it’s really something that’s a huge women’s issue," she said. "And with the increased usage of the Internet and social media, this is new territory that we’re approaching."
Poulson said victims of revenge porn have lost jobs and had their reputations damaged. Some have ended up changing schools or even committing suicide, she said.
As a former high school English teacher, Poulson said, she's willing to tackle the difficult topic because she's observed "naïve and unwise" approaches to social media and sharing intimate images or videos without considering consequences.
"Whichever way it goes, I think it’s a discussion we need to have to have people realize how this practice is a dangerous thing," Poulson said.