Senator Lewis Supports Passage of Legislation to Prevent Abuse and Enhance Protections for Survivors

BOSTON—State Senator Jason Lewis joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature to enact comprehensive legislation that bans image-based sexual abuse (the non-consensual sharing of explicit images, commonly referred to as “revenge porn”), creates a diversion program for teens who share explicit images, expands the legal definition of abuse to include “coercive control,” and extends the statute of limitations to pursue criminal charges for certain domestic violence offenses from 6 to 15 years.

“With the passage of this bill, the Legislature is taking decisive action to support survivors of abuse,” said State Senator Jason Lewis. “Not only are we finally banning image-based sexual abuse, including through deepfake AI images, but we are also explicitly labeling coercive control as abuse, expanding the statute of limitations on certain domestic violence offenses, and creating an educational program to support minors who engage in sexting. I hope that these efforts will serve to support survivors and hold abusers accountable.”

To address the nonconsensual distribution of explicit images by adults, the bill criminalizes image-based sexual abuse and empowers victims to petition the court for a harassment prevention order against a person who has violated the new statute. The legislation also bans the distribution of sexually explicit “deepfakes,” responding to the growing trend of individuals using artificial intelligence and other digital imaging software to realistically depict a person’s face onto an unclothed body, making it challenging or impossible for viewers to determine what is reality.

Under current law, minors who possess, purchase, or share explicit photos of themselves or other minors are charged with violating child pornography laws and are required to register as sex offenders. This legislation allows the Commonwealth’s courts to instead divert minors to an educational program established by the Attorney General to teach minors about the serious consequences and life-altering impacts caused by engaging in this behavior, except in extreme cases.

The bill also adds “coercive control” to the definition of abuse. Coercive control is a nonphysical form of abuse that includes a pattern of behavior intended to threaten, intimidate, harass, isolate, control, coerce or compel compliance of a family or household member in a manner that causes the targeted individual to fear physical harm or to have a reduced sense of physical safety or autonomy. Examples of coercive control include threatening to share explicit images, regulating or monitoring a family or household member’s communications and access to services, and isolating a family or household member from friends or relatives.

Lastly, this legislation also extends the statute of limitations for assault and battery on a family or household member or against someone with an active protective order from 6 years to 15 years. This change brings the statute of limitations for these domestic violence offenses in line with the statute of limitations for the crimes of rape, assault with intent to commit rape and sex trafficking.

Having received final passage by both the House and Senate, the bill was signed into law by Governor Maura Healey on June 20, 2024.