Senators Judy Schwank (D-11) and Randy Vulakovich (R-38) have introduced legislation that aims to criminalize the coercion of sexual conduct.
Senate Bill 1134 would establish sextortion as a specific criminal offense with consequences comparable to similar sexual offenses.
“This is behavior we see affecting people, primarily women, at all levels of society,” Schwank said. “It is a demeaning experience that no one should have to go through to get housing, employment or just to live their lives. This has been tolerated for too long. We need to treat it like the crime it is.”
Sextortion occurs when sex or sexual images are demanded in lieu of money or other items with financial value. The act is recognized as a form of sexual assault and is criminalized in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Texas and Utah.
While sextortion has a long history, its use has grown in both intensity and frequency in the digital age, outpacing current laws and mechanisms, while leaving victims with inadequate resource and perpetrators unaccountable. Victims confront sextortion today in daily interactions.
“As a former police officer, I have seen this inexcusable and exploitive behavior proliferate and this legislation would ban the cruel practice – the victims are often unable to recover from the stigma and the psychological repercussions for the rest of their lives,” said Vulakovich. “I believe we need to create stronger punishments so Pennsylvanians know this conduct will not be tolerated.”
The legislation is supported by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, the Office of Victim Advocate and the District Attorney’s Association. It was assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee.