‘Revenge Porn’ Bill Brings Emotional Response

Tears flowed as Elle Williams recounted her experience with “revenge porn.”

“My testimony will never fully allow you to feel the fear I am feeling,” the 21-year-old Prior Lake woman Tuesday told the Minnesota House public safety committee while urging lawmakers to outlaw the practice.

Williams said that two years ago, her then-24-year-old boyfriend took a video of their first sexual encounter. Two weeks ago, after they broke up, he sent her a text message saying he planned to post that video to the Internet, she said.

“It was, and is, so very terrifying to me,” she said.

With tears flowing down her face, and admitting she was scared to be talking about the topic in public, Williams concluded with: “Please do the right thing and take action.”

By a voice vote, committee members approved legislation outlawing revenge pornography.

Rep. John Lesch, D-St. Paul, said he sponsors the bill because a lot of Minnesotans, mostly women, report their former significant others have posted revealing photographs and videos without their consent.

“This would be an important safeguard,” he said about legislation making it illegal.

However, Teresa Nelson of the American Civil Liberties Union Minnesota said the Lesch bill could be an unconstitutional violation of the U.S. Constitution’s free speech requirement.

“We are not doing victims of revenge porn any service by passing a bill that cannot be upheld in court,” she said.

Nelson said she wants to work with Lesch to make sure the bill can pass constitutional muster.

Lesch, a former prosecutor, said he felt “a little bit ambushed” because the ACLU had not brought up the issue in earlier meetings. He said that he thinks the legislation would survive a constitutional challenge.

More than two dozen states have similar laws, mostly coming in the past three years.

Lesch brought up the issue after the Minnesota Appeals Court last year dismissed a criminal case on the issue because current laws do not deal with the Internet situation.

In general, revenge porn is use of someone’s sexual image online without consent. It usually is done with the intent to humiliate or intimidate.

Lesch’s bill has more committee stops before it can gain a full House vote. A similar bill is in the Senate.