Washington Bills Allow Revenge Porn Victims to Seek Restitution in Civil Court

Jan 23, 2015 2:45 PM PST

OLYMPIA — Bills introduced in the Washington State House and Senate on Thursday would allow victims of revenge porn to seek restitution in civil court.

So-called “revenge porn” is the posting of explicit, intimate images of people, without their consent, to the web. The name comes from the fact that often time the perpetrators are the victim’s jilted lovers.

Identical measures were introduced by Rep. Tina Orwall in the house and by Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley in the senate.

Orwall noted before the Internet, revenge porn pictures leaked to the media had a much more narrow viewership.

“That was damaging to the victims, but not nearly as devastating as what they go through now with the Internet making images easily published, easily viewed and permanent in nature,” Orwall said.

Under the proposed legislation, a person would be liable if the image was obtained with the understanding of privacy — as in the case of former lovers — and then posted to the internet, causing the victim emotional distress.

The bills would also make a person liable if they obtained the picture without consent. Someone might do this by hacking the victim's computer, or otherwise accessing the image, physical or electronic.

Padden says he hopes that young people comprehend the gravity of sharing these types of photos.

“Distributing them, especially in a way that is intended to intimidate, or harass someone, should never be acceptable,” Padden said. “And when the image is of someone who is underage, it is essentially distributing child pornography,” 

He continued, “This bill is aimed at reducing this type of ‘revenge porn' and holding those who commit these malicious acts accountable.”

The minimum liability under these bills is $10,000. The court could also require the images to be removed from the web.

Both bills are expected to be referred to committees.

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