Government & Politics

Senate approves bill to outlaw revenge porn in Missouri

The legislation would make it a felony to threaten to disseminate or distribute a sexually explicit image taken without consent.
The legislation would make it a felony to threaten to disseminate or distribute a sexually explicit image taken without consent.

The Missouri Senate on Wednesday passed a bill that would make Missouri the 39th state to outlaw revenge porn.

If the House signs off on the bill, which is expected, it would go to the governor for his signature.

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Jim Neely, R-Cameron, would make it a felony to threaten to disseminate or distribute a sexually explicit image taken without consent.

The bill moves closer to becoming law while Gov. Eric Greitens is set to go to trial next week on a felony charge stemming from allegations that he took a nude photo without permission of a woman with whom he was having an affair in 2015. Greitens allegedly threatened to show the photo to others if the woman spoke of their relationship.

In an April report, a Missouri House committee found the woman’s testimony of a nonconsensual sexual encounter with Greitens to be credible.

Neely had amended the bill in February to make it a felony to threaten to disseminate a nonconsensual sexually explicit image — although he insisted it had nothing to do with allegations surrounding the governor.

Sen. Gary Romine, R-Farmington, said the bill would give prosecutors a law to protect victims whose privacy has been violated in a relationship.

“This bill comes before us today in a time when life is changing,” Romine said. “We have modern technology. We have the smartphone. We have easy access to videos and pictures that are being taken on a regular basis, and some of these are being used in nefarious ways to harm a former spouse or a former relationship."

While Missouri’s invasion of privacy statute outlaws a person taking sexually explicit images of a person without their consent, there is no state law that specifically addresses the circulation of the image.

This was lawmakers’ fourth attempt in recent years to prohibit revenge porn.

“Rep. Neely … has been filing this,” said Sen. Bob Onder, R-St Charles County, “long before the high-profile cases that have been in the media.”

The Senate adopted a substitute of the bill offered by Romine that removed a provision requiring internet providers to remove a nonconsensual sexual image five days after they’ve been notified of it. An emergency clause, also adopted, would make the bill law immediately after it receives the governor’s signature.

“I would imagine this bill would fall under the category of the others that have been committed to that conversation,” Romine said.

The changes to the bill must be adopted by the House. Neely indicated he had no problem with the Senate’s alterations.

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