'Revenge porn' might soon be a criminal offense in RI

"Revenge porn" is sharing or publishing sexually explicit or indecent images of another adult.

Posting or publishing explicit or indecent material online could soon land offenders in trouble with the law.

It's been called "revenge porn," and the Rhode Island House Judiciary Committee voted Tuesday to pass the bill, bringing it one step closer to becoming a criminal offense in Rhode Island.

Rep. Donald Lally, Jr. introduced the bill in 2014. At the time, he told NBC 10 he couldn't think of one good reason why revenge porn should be allowed in society.

"You don't have to leave a mark or a bruise to assault someone, and I think in a way, this is trying to assault that person who you no longer have a relationship with," Lally said.

The bill is back on the table at the State House this year.

If it becomes law, sharing or publishing sexually explicit or indecent images of another adult would be a misdemeanor. A second offense would be a felony.

There are a couple of exceptions where it would not be against the law, like if the person in the photo was in a public setting.

But, it would be a crime if the person in the photo expected it to be private and didn't agree to the images being shared.

"Sharing explicit images of someone can be a powerful tool for abusers to gain power and control over their victims," Rachel Orsinger, who works for the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said.

Orsinger told NBC 10 statistics on revenge porn are not tracked, since it is not a crime right now. But, she said it's something advocates see frequently and the repercussions for victims can come in many forms.

"Threatening them to not leave, or threatening them to drop criminal prosecution, or in terms of just trying to make their life miserable," Orsinger said.

In 2014, the ACLU expressed problems with the bill, saying it was a free speech issue and stating that cases should be handled as civil, not criminal, offenses.

Victims' advocates like Orsinger said this would give prosecutors another tool to work with in domestic violence cases.

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