Bill Protecting ‘Sextortion’ Victims Advances to Assembly

SB 500 Protects Minors, Young Women, Others From Sexual Extortion

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

SACRAMENTO – Earlier today, the California State Senate unanimously approved legislation authored by Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) that would criminalize sexual extortion (“sextortion”) and provide prosecutors with an important tool to combat this serious crime.

Passed today with strong bipartisan support, Senate Bill 500 will ensure that California’s extortion laws include not only the coercion of a victim to hand over money or property, but also coercion involving sexual acts and sexually explicit images.

In the digital age, perpetrators of sextortion can target their victims online and exert power over strangers. Perpetrators obtain private—often sexually explicit—images of their victims by hacking into their computers or smartphones and use the threat of distributing these images to demand sex or additional sexually explicit images.

“SB 500 will finally close the sexual extortion loophole that allows perpetrators to potentially evade legal consequences since this crime is not currently in state law.  California law must keep up with technology so that justice is served and these perpetrators are held accountable for their crime,” Senator Leyva said.  “As the Vice Chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, I am pleased that SB 500 will take the existing revenge porn law to the next level by punishing even the threat of distributing sexually explicit pictures to demand sex or more pictures.  When perpetrators threaten the release of a person’s sexually explicit pictures, they rob those victims of their sense of safety and dignity.  I look forward to SB 500 also earning strong bipartisan support in the Assembly in the weeks ahead.”

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has reported that 78% of reported sextortion victims were girls, with an average age of 15, and more than 20% of reported incidents involved multiple victims. Since these statistics are based on victim reporting, the rate of sextortion may actually be underreported.

California Legislative Women’s Caucus Chair Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) is a principal coauthor and Assemblymember Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima) is a coauthor of SB 500.  The California Legislative Women’s Caucus has also highlighted SB 500 this year as a priority bill that protects vulnerable communities.

Sponsored by the California District Attorneys Association and Legal Momentum and supported by many public safety organizations across California, SB 500 will next be considered in the Assembly.