The millennial and controversial Democrat from the Santa Clarita Valley, Rep. Katie Hill, is resigning from Congress. But her sexual harassment case has given rise to an additional debate on cyber harassment and the California law against revenge porn.
Following the 2018 #MeToo movement, Congress passed a new sexual harassment policy under which a campaign leader’s sexual relationship with a member of his or her team could be viewed as a form of sexual harassment.
Hill came at the center of a scandal after the details of her sexual relationship with a campaign staffer (accompanied by explicit images) were published online.
Hill’s Lawyers Cite Revenge Porn Law
Hill’s photos were first published by the British tabloid “Daily Mail”. While she decided to step down and apologized for her sexual relationship with a campaign aide, she has hit out against the actions of the Daily Mail. Her legal team has issued a “cease and desist” notice to the publication, citing the so-called revenge porn laws of California.
This law makes it a crime to share personal, sexual photographs of an individual without their permission.
However, legal experts specializing in cyber harassment cases say that Hill’s case may have limitations because of the limits imposed by California’s law, and the inherent challenges of trying to criminalize speech of any sort. Furthermore, she is a public figure, which makes her case even more difficult.
Sexual Harassment Involving Technology
The debate on “non-consensual pornography” in Hill’s case is driven by the fact that California was the first state to have addressed this form of “high-tech” sexual harassment in its penal code in 2013. Hill has indicated that Kenny Heslep, her estranged husband with whom she is fighting a bitter divorce battle, leaked the photos to the media outlets.
The revenge porn legislation in California was inspired by the suicide of a high school student in Santa Clara after three teenage boys shared photographs of her sexual assault online. The law was backed by Kamala Harris, who was then the Attorney General.
Harris, has introduced a bill that would make non-consensual pornography a federal crime. In California, revenge porn is a misdemeanor violation, which can result in imprisonment of up to six months and a fine of $1,000.
However, one of the challenges with enforcing this law is that the prosecution must be able to show that the individual who released sexual photographs or videos of another person without their consent has done so with “malicious intent.”
This means, the lawyers representing Katie Hill against Daily Mail would have to prove that the tabloid published these photos with the specific intent of causing harm to the Congresswoman.
Consult with a Skilled Sexual Harassment Lawyer in California
If you or a loved one has been a victim of sexual harassment, you can receive the right legal advice from highly experienced sexual harassment attorneys at Makarem & Associates in California. Call 310-312-0299 today or email at [email protected].