Survivors urge MA lawmakers to finally ban nonconsensual pornography

BOSTON — Massachusetts would join 48 other states to ban nonconsensual pornography under a bill that got a hearing Tuesday at the statehouse.

Lawmakers on Massachusetts’ Joint Committee on the Judiciary heard from advocates, survivors and other lawmakers who said it’s far past time for Massachusetts to act.

It’s an issue 25 Investigates covered earlier this summer.

Massachusetts is one of only two states that has yet to criminalize revenge porn, which is the sharing of graphic images and videos of someone without their consent.

Survivors and advocates have fought for a ban for years.

“I am a victim of a vengeful abuser and a survivor of revenge porn,” said Alex Hagerty, of Abington. “Revenge porn is legal in Massachusetts. Our laws are protecting the vengeful abuser over the revenge porn victim. As a victim, I felt worthless.”

Survivors on Tuesday shared stories of being turned away by law enforcement when former partners posted sexually explicit photos and videos of them online, or when neighborhood kids posted naked photos of a young boy and shared them throughout their community.

“Imagine… being told there is nothing, or very little that can be done,” New Hope advocate Amonda Mitchell said.

“The fact that we are one of only two states in this country without this legislation, should create a sense of urgency,” she said.

State Sen. John Keenan, a sponsor of the bill, testified the crime disproportionately involves underage survivors.

“For every person who comes forward there are dozens and dozens who do not feel they can come forward,” Keenan said. “They don’t want to and for a number of reasons.. can’t reveal what has happened.”

A similar bill passed the House last year, and then months later, passed the Senate by a voice vote.

But lawmakers failed to agree on a compromise bill – meaning the bill failed to make it to the governor’s desk by the deadline in the last year.

We’ll be following this bill as it moves through the state house.

Lawmakers have until roughly the end of the year to act.

Keenan said he feels “very confident” in the bill’s chances this year.

One survivor, Kelsey Feylar, urged lawmakers to act, and questioned why one senator last year had said he didn’t think nonconsensual pornography was a “significant” problem.

Attorney Michael Ryan, of the Committee for Public Counsel Services, urged lawmakers to take a look at the wording of the legislation, and make sure it will only target those who intend to cause harm by distributing photos without consent.

“This will help ensure that only the bad actors with bad intentions face criminal sanction,” Ryan said.

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