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Governor Cuomo announces proposal to end sextortion

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Governor Cuomo

Governor Cuomo unveiled the 11th proposal of the 2018 State of the State on Thursday. The proposal is a comprehensive plan to outlaw “sextortion” and non-consensual pornography, often known as “revenge porn.”

Under these new measures, a conviction for any of these serious offenses will require registration as a sex offender and sentences will range from a class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail or three years of probation, or up to a class C Felony, punishable by up to fifteen years in prison.

Under this proposal, statutory changes will make so-called “sextortion” and “non-consensual pornography” illegal under the law, including threats and blackmail to compel sexual conduct or publicizing sexually explicit images or videos without the person’s consent.

Updates to the penal law will also make it a crime to compel another person to expose him or herself or engage in sexual conduct by threatening his or her health, safety, business, career, financial condition, reputation or personal relationships.  

Moreover, it will be a crime to disclose, or threaten to disclose, without consent, images or videos of another person’s intimate body parts or the person engaged in a sexual act when the person had a reasonable expectation that such recording would not be disclosed.

The Governor used information from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which began tracking sextortion in 2013, showing there was a 90 percent increase in reported sextortion between 2014 and 2015. The Governor also used a 2016 survey by the Crimes Against Children Research Center, to emphasize why this is an important issue. The survey shows that nearly a quarter of sextortion victims seek out physical or mental health services.

To end the pattern of sexual exploitation, Cuomo proposes a two-pronged approach that would criminalize:

  • Disclosing or threatening to disclose sexually compromising images or videos with the intent to cause material harm to the victim’s mental or emotional health or to compel the victim to undertake some act; and
  • Compelling a person to expose him or herself or engage in sexual conduct by threatening to harm the victim’s health, safety, business, career, financial condition, reputation or personal relationships. 

These new measures advance two different laws that create four crimes in total:

  1. Unlawful Publication of Sexual Images: With intent to cause material harm to mental or emotional health, a person (1) disseminates images of intimate sexual nature; or (2) compels another to engage in conduct by threatening to disseminate images of an intimate sexual nature. This will be a class A misdemeanor; punishable by up to one year in jail or three years of probation.
  2.  Sexual Extortion in the 3rd Degree: A person compels or induces another person to expose his or her sexual or intimate parts or engage in sexual conduct by instilling a fear in him or her that, if the demand is not complied with, the actor will perform an act intended to harm the person, or another person, with respect to his or her health, safety, business, career, financial condition, reputation or personal relationships. This will be a class E Felony; punishable by up to four years in prison.
  3. Sexual Extortion in the 2nd Degree: Same as above but the victim is under 17-years-old.  This will be a class D Felony; punishable by up to seven years in prison.
  4. Sexual Extortion in the 1st Degree: Same as above but the victim is under 15-years-old.  This will be a class C Felony; punishable by up to fifteen years in prison.

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