During Katie Daly’s nine-month relationship with a boyfriend, the two exchanged intimate photos of each other.

After they broke up, she said she was horrified when he threatened to distribute the pictures online unless she slept with him.

“He had clearly tried to use it against me,” she said Thursday. “He was trying to manipulate the situation in his favor thinking that I would then consent to whatever he wanted.”

Daly shared her story to a legislative work group that has spent a year crafting a new law that they hope will end what is called “revenge porn,” when people publish or threaten to publish sexually explicit photos, videos or audio recordings of partners without their consent.

The goal is to ensure that people like Daly’s ex-boyfriend could be prosecuted.

“The massive proliferation of images, videos and photos in recent years has made this a problem that needs to be addressed,” said Rep. John Lesch, DFL-St. Paul. “We need to get this addressed soon otherwise there’s going to be a lot of people who end up losing jobs or reputation.”

The push comes after the Minnesota Court of Appeals struck down the state’s criminal defamation law last year, which had been used to prosecute an alleged “revenge porn” case in Isanti County.

The proposed legislation would punish the unauthorized distribution of private sexual images as a gross misdemeanor and as a felony under more extreme circumstances.

It also would also create a path for victims to pursue lawsuits and strengthen the state’s criminal defamation law.

Lesch said he’s been told the bill will at least be granted a committee hearing in this year’s legislative session.

He also said he’s optimistic he’ll find an author in the Senate.

If passed, Minnesota would join 26 other states and Washington, D.C., with laws that address revenge porn.

The American Civil Liberties Union has opposed similar laws in other states.

Benjamin Feist, legislative director of the ACLU of Minnesota, said the organization worries that free speech would be affected.

“The way to combat that from our position here is to make sure you do have clear intent and clear knowledge that you’re doing this to cause harm,” he said.

The anxiety and fear Daly said she faced after the incident with her ex-boyfriend caused her to withdraw from classes at the University of Minnesota.

Carrie Goldberg, a Brooklyn, N.Y., attorney who specializes in these cases, said victims of revenge porn often face emotional distress after personal images are distributed on the Internet.

Often, personal identifiers, such as names, addresses, social media profiles and phone numbers are included.

According to a 2013 survey by the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, 90 percent of victims who responded were women.

“It’s pretty impossible to get a job, or to go on a date, to get an apartment, to get a roommate without your name being typed into Google,” Goldberg said. “It’s pretty devastating for victims [when their] first few pages of search engine results lead to links of pornography.”

 

Christopher Aadland is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.