Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today unveiled the 11th proposal of the 2018 State of the State: 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.
"The dangerous proliferation of sextortion and revenge crimes disproportionately targets young women and girls and causes harm and embarrassment that can follow victims their entire lives," Governor Cuomo said. "This new legislation outlaws this horrific, exploitive practice once and for all in New York and will help provide New Yorkers with peace of mind both on- and offline."
Under this proposal, which builds upon prior efforts advanced by the New York State Legislature, 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.
According to a 2016 Brookings Institute report, 71 percent of the sextortion cases studied involved victims under the age of 18 with the vast majority being female. Most sextortion cases involve social media manipulation - where the perpetrator deceives the victim into sending compromising pictures and, then, coerces them for additional material. This manipulation is particularly prevalent with minor victims - occurring in 91 percent of their cases. Unfortunately, reports of these crimes are dramatically rising.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which began tracking sextortion in 2013, there was a 90 percent increase in reported sextortion between 2014 and 2015. These crimes traumatize their victims and cause serious harm. According to a 2016 survey by the Crimes Against Children Research Center, nearly a quarter of sextortion victims seek out physical or mental health services.
To end this disturbing pattern of sexual exploitation, Governor 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.