PDAA Praises Advancement of “Sextortion” Bill

June 5, 2019

Legislation to criminalize sexual extortion moves on to the Senate

HARRISBURG, PA — A bill to make sexual extortion illegal in Pennsylvania passed the state House today by a vote of 195-0 and is headed to the Senate. The vote today was particularly timely, after earlier this week the FBI issued a warning to parents that ‘sextortion’ cases involving children are on the rise.

“Sexual extortion cases are not isolated and are not rare,” said PDAA President and Butler County District Attorney Richard A. Goldinger. “The House’s unanimous support brings us a step closer to closing gaps in the law and holding offenders accountable for this devastating conduct. We are grateful to see this bill moving.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee has already approved a similar bill.

Pennsylvania’s current extortion law is insufficient to hold perpetrators accountable. The extortion law was written before the proliferation of sexual extortion, the internet, the cloud, or the web. The current law treats extortion as a theft and doesn’t take into account the deviant, manipulative behavior, or the gravity of a threat to publish naked or sexually explicit images if the victim does not engage in some form of sexual activity. District attorneys have reported that both perpetrators and victims have called sexual extortion a form of virtual slavery.

“Perpetrators use the internet to gain power and exploit others,” testified Greg Rowe, PDAA Director of Legislation and Policy during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee in March. “Our technology changes, and our laws must keep up with the changes.”

Approximately ten states have enacted sexual extortion language, including Alabama, Arkansas, California, Utah and Texas.

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Contact: Lindsay Vaughan, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association lvaughan@pdaa.org or (717) 238-5416.