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Can Katie Hill Do Anything About Revenge Porn Used Against Her?

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 31:  Rep. Katie Hill (D-CA) answers questions from reporters at the U.S. Capitol following her final speech on the floor of the House of Representatives October 31, 2019 in Washington, DC. Hill announced she is resigning from Congress in the midst of an ethics probe regarding allegations she engaged in a relationship with a staff member, and the release of intimate photographs. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
By Andrew Leonatti on November 01, 2019 1:56 PM

This last weekend marked another sad chapter in Washington, D.C.'s — and America's — obsession with sex scandals.

This time, it was Rep. Katie Hill, D-Calif., who was felled by salacious allegations and pictures. The 32-year-old married freshman lawmaker, viewed as a rising star in her party, was accused of carrying on sexual relationships with both a campaign staffer and an employee in her Congressional office.

Hill acknowledged the former but denied the latter, which would be a violation of Congressional ethics rules.

Photos Published

But what likely undid Hill's brief career was the publishing of several nude photos that showed Hill using a marijuana bong and cavorting with the campaign staffer. Hill and her husband, who she is divorcing, both acknowledged being in a "throuple" relationship with the staffer.

In her resignation statement, she said she felt compelled to stand down, because "I know that as long as I am in Congress, we'll live fearful of what might come next and how much it will hurt."

Legal Options for Revenge Porn

Hill says it was her soon-to-be-ex husband who shared the photos with several news sites. So let's put aside the (obvious) double standard that's likely at play in Hill's resignation. What can she do legally about the pictures?

The ease that we now have to share photos and everything else online has led to a rise in "revenge porn" laws across the country.

While there is still no federal law, Hill's home state of California was a pioneer in criminalizing revenge porn. Intentionally distributing intimate photos that the victim thought to be private with the intent of causing distress to the victim is punishable by up to six months in prison and $1,000 fine for a first offense.

Even if California authorities do not take legal action against Hill's husband, she could still pursue a lawsuit against him as well.

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