Schwank's ‘revenge porn' legislation heading to house

The Pennsylvania Senate unanimously approved state Sen. Judy Schwank’s bill to criminalize so-called “revenge porn,” and it did so as the young woman who sparked initiatives across the country to change state laws stood almost literally by the Berks County Democratic lawmaker’s side.

Allyson Pereira was 16 years old when her ex-boyfriend published a photo of her naked body online. The unauthorized photograph went viral and Pereira quickly became the victim of harassment by her classmates. Her family’s northern New Jersey home was also vandalized, and her story led New Jersey to become the first state to make the act a crime.

Pereira was in Harrisburg coincidentally on Tuesday to express her support for Schwank’s proposal, which the Pennsylvania chapter of the ACLU has agreed does not present First Amendment issues. Prosecutors, victims and other constitutional advocates have also endorsed the effort.

“Ally is a victim of intimate partner harassment,” Schwank said in introducing Pereira to the Senate. “At 16 years old, school can be tough enough, but instead of backing down, Ally spoke out, fought back and helped to encourage states like Pennsylvania to write new laws punishing those who would intentionally hurt others.

“I am grateful for the Senate’s quick work on my bill and I am looking forward to the House of Representative’s diligent consideration so we can get this bill to the governor and into law to protect people,” Schwank said.

Under Schwank’s proposal, people who commit the offense of Intimate Partner Harassment would be subject to a penalty of up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine if the case involves a victim who is a minor. It would carry a penalty of up to two years and a $5,000 fine if the victim is an adult.

A person who with no legitimate purpose and without consent exposes to a third person a photograph or similar image of the offender’s intimate partner nude or explicitly engaged in a sexual act, with the intent to harass, annoy or alarm him or her, would commit the crime of intimate partner harassment.

If the House and the governor approve Schwank’s SB 1167, Pennsylvania will join California and New Jersey in making it a crime to post unwanted pictures of former partners without their consent. Similar bills have been proposed and are being considered in a number of other states, including New York and Delaware.

From the office of Sen. Judy Schwank.

Join the Conversation