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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: April 27, 2018 12:22 PM
From: Representative Becky Corbin and Rep. Joanna E. McClinton
To: All House members
Subject: Sextortion Legislation
We will soon be introducing a bill to help law enforcement and victim services organizations address a serious sex crime that often falls through the cracks of our current criminal justice system. Our bill will create a new crime of sextortion, which is a growing form of sexual exploitation. Pennsylvania law does not adequately cover this crime, unfortunately.

Sextortion occurs in many settings—housing, workplaces, schools, legal systems, community settings, and online. This crime occurs when a person uses coercion and misuses their power to demand sexual acts, images, or videos from victims. Perpetrators withhold an essential service or thing of value from the victim, threaten a punishment, or offer a reward—contingent upon whether or not the victim complies with demands for sexual acts, images, or videos. Our current laws do not match the severity of this crime, or its effects on victims.

Our bill will enable Pennsylvania to keep pace in a digital age that often facilitates certain types of sextortion. The Department of Justice recently reported sextortion is “by far the most significantly growing threat to children.” In fact, 71% of cases involve victims under the age of 18. A 2015 FBI sextortion investigation found that offenders were specifically seeking out children they considered easy targets because of their demonstrated willingness to post personal content online and engage in live-streaming video activity, whether the content was sexually explicit or not.

The mix of technology and those who want to criminally exploit others is significantly responsible for the rise in this crime. According to the Brookings Institute, some perpetrators initially hack another’s account to gain access to their personal photos as a way to extort. In other cases, perpetrators manipulate victims by tricking them into sending pictures and then extort them to send more images or to engage in sexual acts.

As several states are beginning to enact their own sextortion laws, and as this crime grows in scope and more individuals are being victimized, Pennsylvania has an opportunity to lead the nation in addressing this serious sex crime. We know that with new and expanding technology, our state laws need to keep up to protect the most vulnerable.

Please consider joining us in cosponsoring this important legislation.

Introduced as HB2612