Yesterday, Congresswoman Katie Hill (D-CA) gave her final speech in Congress as she was forced to resign after her estranged husband and political rivals published nude photographs of her and (so far) unsubstantiated allegations that she had violated House rules by having an affair with one or more Congressional staff members.¹
Hill’s resignation and farewell speech vividly depict the damage wrought by revenge porn and why it is often described as “digital rape”. Hill’s account of spending days at home in isolation is not uncommon with stories I have heard from other victims.
To her credit, prior to the scandal, Hill was one of 39 co-sponsors of H.R. 2896, the “Stopping Harmful Image Exploitation and Limiting Distribution Act of 2019” or the “SHIELD Act of 2019”, which would make distribution of revenge porn a federal offense. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) has introduced the Senate companion S. 2111 which has only two cosponsors.
While the Shield Act is a bipartisan measure, with four Republican cosponsors, it is worth noting that
- 38 of Hill’s California House Democratic colleagues and Senator Dianne Feinstein have yet to join as co-sponsors of the bill;
- the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, which has jurisdiction over the bill and is chaired by Los Angeles Rep. Karen Bass, has yet to hold a hearing or take any action on the legislation; and
- this is the third Congress in which revenge porn legislation has been introduced and yet no action has been taken.
As my former colleague, Rep. John Katko stated at the press conference introducing the Shield Act, “shame on us in the federal government for not taking the lead on this. It’s incumbent upon us as legislators to say, ‘This is not right.’” The unlawful shaming of Rep. Hill should spur her colleagues to follow Rep. Katko’s lead and say “this is not right”.
I am urging Hill’s California Democratic colleagues to at least step forward and join as cosponsors of the Shield Act and for Chairwoman Karen Bass to hold the first federal hearings on revenge porn legislation. I have listed their phone and Twitter contacts for those who wish to do the same.
Footnote 1: I understand that Hill and her husband had a relationship with one of Hill’s campaign staffers, but I have yet to see substantiation of any improper relationship with anyone on her Congressional staff.