Earlier this year, Nathaly Rodriguez found herself in a real-life nightmare.
Nathaly was preparing to compete in a beauty pageant. While Nathaly chased her dreams, her ex-boyfriend from more than a decade before set out to destroy her chances to succeed.
With a few clicks of a mouse, Nathaly’s ex posted a video of them having sex on the Internet, along with information about Nathaly. All of this was done without Nathaly’s consent. As Nathaly tells it, the experience left her broken, embarrassed and without a desire to live.
Sadly, there are countless New Yorkers, women and men, with stories similar to Nathaly’s. The non-consensual distribution of intimate photos or videos of another person, commonly known as “revenge porn,” is a 21st century form of sexual assault. Domestic abusers are increasingly using the threat of sharing such images to coerce and manipulate victims to stay in a dangerous relationship, to cede custody of shared children, or as yet another means to shame and terrorize their partners.
I am proud to report that the New York City Council unanimously passed my bill to criminalize revenge porn in New York City in mid-November. The legislation, inspired by a state bill by Assemblyman Edward Braunstein, makes it a misdemeanor offense in New York City to disclose, or threaten to disclose, intimate photos or videos of another person without consent and with the intent to cause harm.
Revenge porn perpetrators will now face serious consequences for their actions. This offense will be punishable by up to one year in jail, a $1,000 fine or both. The legislation also empowers civil courts to award damages, prevent images from being posted, order them taken down and force offenders to pay victim’s attorneys’ fees.
When Mayor de Blasio signs the legislation into law, New York City will become one of the largest jurisdictions in the country to criminalize revenge porn. This bill is a testament to the revenge porn survivors like Nathaly, who spoke up and shared their stories, and the victims’ advocates, law enforcement personnel, and attorneys who made clear why criminalizing revenge porn was so important.
No one should ever have to worry that intimate images might be shared without their consent with their family, friends, employer, or strangers on the Internet. No one should have to experience the horror Nathaly felt, along with the helplessness to take action.
With passage of this legislation, we sent a strong message to anyone who thought they could get away with this despicable act: not in New York City.
Rory I. Lancman