Governor Jerry Brown Signs Leyva Bill Protecting ‘Sextortion’ Victims

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

Thursday, October 5, 2017

SACRAMENTO – Governor Jerry Brown today signed important legislation authored by Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) that will criminalize sexual extortion (“sextortion”) and provide law enforcement with an important tool to fight this serious crime.

After receiving strong bipartisan support in both the Senate and Assembly, 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.

“The Governor’s signature of SB 500 tells sextortion victims that they matter and that they absolutely deserve to be able to receive justice in a court of law.  Victims—many times teens and young women—oftentimes feel the need to give in to the demands of these extortionists since they are either embarrassed or afraid,” Senator Leyva said.  “I am proud to have authored this legislation that will now criminalize this inexcusable behavior that deserves to be treated as the crime that it is.  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.  Victims are robbed of their sense of safety and dignity when perpetrators threaten the release of a person’s sexually explicit pictures.  I thank my legislative colleagues on both sides of the aisle for supporting SB 500.”

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has reported that 78% of reported sextortion victims were girls, with an average age of 15.  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 also highlighted SB 500 this year as a priority bill that protects vulnerable communities.

Sponsored by Legal Momentum and supported by many public safety organizations across California, SB 500 will take effect on January 1, 2018.