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Dunn bill that bolsters civil damages for revenge porn victims passes Assembly

NEW JERSEY – Revenge porn victims are closer to being able to sue for higher civil damages in state court, after the Assembly on Thursday passed a bill that would increase monetary awards for emotional distress caused in such cases.


The bill now heads to the governor’s desk for signing.


Assemblywoman Aura Dunn, a tireless advocate for sexual abuse survivors and sponsor of the legislation (A2281), said courts must have the ability to award larger damages for nonconsensual sharing or threats of sharing intimate images to bring full justice to victims.


“New Jersey has strong criminal penalties that carry heavy fines and stiff jail times for distributing sexual images without a person’s consent. But on the civil side, victims find they only had options for monetary redress in federal court,” Dunn (R-Morris) said. “The lack of a clear statute guiding courts on this matter had made suing for damages difficult, if not impossible in some cases, with victims abandoning their quest for justice and closure. My bill remedies that.”


The legislation would permit the state’s civil courts to order money damages up to $10,000 per image, an increase from $1,000, for emotional distress. Courts could also award punitive damages for willful, reckless, or malicious disregard of the victim, as well as attorney’s fees and litigation costs.


The FBI reported more than 18,000 sextortion cases in 2021. The following year, more than 7,000 such cases involved minors, mostly boys, and resulted in a dozen suicides. An estimated 1 in 12 U.S. adults report having been a victim of this type of abuse; most victims and perpetrators, increasingly, are underage teens.


“What other purpose is there in sharing these images without consent, except to humiliate and harm the victim?” Dunn asked. “We need to protect the women, children, and men who others have harmed this way. We need to send the message that we do not tolerate sexual exploitation in New Jersey.”


Over the summer, a now-29-year-old Wall Township Schools graduate Kaitlyn Cannon sued and won her revenge porn case against her former math teacher, Christopher Doyle. The teacher and coach, apparently no longer employed by Wall Township Schools, was accused of posting 14 nude and semi-nude photos of Cannon to a Dutch nonconsensual pornography website. It is unclear how Doyle received the photos; Cannon texted the pictures to a then-boyfriend back in 2016, whose phone was stolen shortly after.


She received $10,000 total in damages.


“Ms. Cannon’s attorney rightly complained the ‘mere’ $10,000 total doesn’t reflect the harm done,” Dunn said. “This young woman is now a social worker who helps others who have been affected by nonconsensual pornography, but all this came at great personal cost to her feelings of safety and privacy. Victims deserve just recompense.”

Persons seeking civil damages would be permitted to file charges under a fictitious name or initials, without revealing their address, and could eventually have the court records sealed under Dunn’s bill.


The bill would only apply to violations occurring on or after the law’s signing.

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