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SALT LAKE CITY — Legislators on Tuesday approved a bill that would make sexual extortion its own crime.
SB232 passed the House and Senate unanimously and now goes to Gov. Gary Herbert for his consideration.
The bill's House sponsor, Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, told lawmakers of how his son's cellphone had been stolen, and the individual who took it immediately began sending out texts to friends and family in the contact list demanding images of a sexual nature.
"It was deeply troubling, both for those who were receiving those and for my son who didn't know it was happening," Eliason said. "The individual then began demanding certain things in order to have the phone returned."
The bill would define sexual extortion as a threat made to a person "with an intent to coerce a victim to engage in sexual contact, in sexually explicit conduct, or in simulated sexually explicit conduct."
That could include a threat to the person's property or their reputation, or could include demands that the victim participates in sexually explicit conduct or provide an "intimate image or video" of themselves engaged in such conduct.
Eliason said law enforcement has reported a growing number of incidences in the area of sexual extortion in today's technology-centered world.
"Women and girls are disproportionately impacted by sexual extortion, and the majority of victims are children under the age of 18." he said
"It is critical that the Legislature update our law to expressly criminalize sexual extortion," Eliason said. "This bill will not only give prosecutors adequate resources and clear statutory basis to appropriately charge these crimes, it will also raise awareness among parents, teens and society as a whole to the seriousness of this crime."