Massachusetts Bans Coercive Control and Revenge Porn

Massachusetts House Passes Bill To Combat Coercive Control

Coercive Control, News By Jun 13, 2024

The Massachusetts House of Representatives has unanimously passed a groundbreaking legislative agreement aimed at cracking down on coercive control and the non-consensual sharing of sexually explicit audiovisual media, also known as revenge porn. The bill, known as H.4744: An Act To Prevent Abuse and Exploitation, was approved with a vote of 155-0 on Wednesday and marks a pivotal moment in the state’s efforts to protect victims of this form of digital abuse.

Robust Legal Protection For Survivors

This hard won action by the House comes after years of struggle and negotiation. While 48 states already have clear prohibitions against revenge porn, Massachusetts lawmakers were previously unable to agree on comprehensive legislation. However, the recent agreement reached by House and Senate has finally resulted in robust legal protections for victim-survivors.

An Expanded Definition of Abuse

Bill H.4744 includes a crucial amendment to Section 1 of chapter 209A of Massachusetts General Laws. The amendment revises the definition of “abuse” to encompass physical, fear of imminent serious physical harm, and coercive control.

The text defines coercive control as a pattern of behavior intended to threaten, intimidate, harass, isolate, control, coerce, or compel compliance of a family or household member, including:

  • Isolating the individual from support networks
  • Depriving the individual of basic needs
  • Monitoring activities, communications, and finances
  • Compelling specific behaviors or criminal activities
  • Threatening harm to children or relatives
  • Committing cruelty or abuse to animals
  • Damaging property
  • Threatening to publish sensitive personal information, including sexually explicit images
  • Using unwarranted court actions

Furthermore, the bill recognizes single acts that causes reasonable fear of physical harm or decreases a person’s sense of safety or autonomy as coercive control, such as:

  • Harming or attempting to harm a child or relative
  • Committing or attempting to commit abuse to an animal
  • Publishing or attempting to publish sexually explicit images

The Impact of Survivor Testimonies

Rep. Michael S. Day, D-31st Middlesex, one of the champions of the bill, shared the crucial role of survivor testimonies in achieving consensus in the legislative process. He explained:

“We heard a lot from survivors about the impacts of both coercive control and revenge porn that they had on their lives. We heard that, and that was an element that pushed us over the finish line here.”

Rep. Alyson Sullivan-Almeida, R-7th Plymouth, also a key member of the conference committee, took to the House floor to share poignant accounts from her constituents who suffered severe emotional distress after being targeted for revenge porn. She said:

“While we have failed so many survivors for so many years, today, that changes. Today, we have taken one step forward in protecting victims across the commonwealth.”

A Bipartisan Show of Strength

The bipartisan support for H.4744 is a testament to the urgent need for coercive control legislation. The unanimous vote demonstrated a unified stance in tackling the emotional and psychological toll that coercive control and the publication of revenge porn inflicts on survivors.

In Governor Healy’s Hands

Bill H.4744 is now on headed to the office of Governor Maura Healey, where it is expected to be signed into law imminently. Once enacted, the new legislation will mark an important step forward in the fight to uphold digital privacy and personal integrity.

Once enacted, Bill H.4744 will equip survivors with the legal tools necessary to safeguard themselves and seek justice in cases of coercive control and revenge porn.

Summary

The progress in Massachusetts sets a powerful example for other states still grappling with the complexities of coercive control and digital privacy laws. The unanimous approval of H.4744 shows what can be achieved when lawmakers listen to the voices of the constituents and unite to protect the people they serve. For more information, see the Coercive Control Legislation Global Database.

Sources: Mass Live, Bill H.4744.

Photo: Esky Studio Deposit Photos.

Author

Manya Wakefield is a recovery coach specializing in cognitive behavioral therapy and coercive trauma. Her expertise has been featured in publications such as Newsweek, Elle, Cosmopolitan, and Huffington Post. In 2019, she launched the social impact platform Narcissistic Abuse Rehab, building a global audience through human rights advocacy. The same year, she published the book ‘Are You In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship,’ which is used in domestic violence recovery groups around the world. In 2020, Manya developed The Coercive Control Legislation Global Database. She is also the host of The Narcissistic Abuse Rehab Podcast, which is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon.