State Rep. John Rogers (D-Mentor-on-the-Lake) today announced the unanimous passage of two of his sponsored pieces of legislation that will help protect women, including the protection of private images and preventing underage marriages.
House Bill 497 prohibits the nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images, often referred to as “revenge porn,” by setting penalties to punish those who distribute sexually explicit images with the intent to harass the victim.
“The act of distributing these intimate images often occurs as the result of a breakup in a relationship,” said Rogers. “When a relationship ends on a sour note, one party may react with vengeance and decide to publish or post personal images of their former significant other on social media or to friends and family members with the intent of harming their former partner.”
According to Rogers, once maliciously posted by someone, the image can spread like wildfire across the internet. Frequently, the image of the victim may include that person’s full name and contact information.
“The outcome of this conduct can cause a multitude of personal and professional issues, in addition to the humiliation and embarrassment a victim may feel when their most intimate, private exchanges are shared with the world,” said Rogers.
Rogers, who collaborated on HB497 with Rep. Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville), stated that existing Ohio law makes it difficult to prosecute offenders for distributing images
“There are currently 38 states that have laws specific to an offense of revenge porn,” said Rogers. “This legislation would join Ohio with these other states to extend protections to thousands of Ohioans who would otherwise have no legal protections in these cases.”
Later in Wednesday’s session, Rogers’ House Bill 511, which adjusts the underage marriage laws in Ohio, passed the House chamber.
Current Ohio law provides that minors may marry with proper consent at the age of 16. The bill would require that individuals be 18 years old for a marriage license without consent of a parent, guardian or juvenile court. The bill provides an exemption for a 17-year-old to marry if they obtain consent from a juvenile court, provided their partner is not more than four years older.
“Between the years 2000 and 2015, there were more than 4,000 girls who were 17 years of age or younger that married in Ohio. During that same time span, just 201 boys under the age of 17 were married with the approval of a parent or juvenile court,” said Rogers “The large discrepancy between teenage minors getting married begs the question if the age at which Ohio teenagers can marry, especially young girls, is too lenient.”
According to the Tahrih Justice Center, women who marry as teenagers have a greater likelihood of dropping out of high school, living in poverty, having medical and mental health problems and have a greater vulnerability to domestic violence. A recent Boston University Law Review study determined that approximately 80 percent of marriages involving young teens end in divorce.
“Divorce, in many cases, leaves a single mother taking care of a child by herself or with the care of parents,” said Rogers. “Child support becomes a matter to be settled and must frequently be enforced in the domestic relations court, creating an even greater burden for the parent and the child.”
The bill’s joint sponsor, state Rep. Laura Lanese (R-Grove City), stated in her testimony that sometimes parents are the cause of the tragedies that happens to young women who married, citing a 2002 Ohio case where a pregnant 14-year-old was allowed to marry a 48-year-old in Gallia County.
“The pressures of a marriage between teens in and of itself can be readily evident,” added Rogers. “A minor couple, where one is pregnant, can create an even more difficult environment for all parties involved, especially when choices to be made by teenagers or between couples with a greater age difference who may not be mentally prepared for these new found responsibilities or drastic lifestyle changes.”
Both bills will now move to the Senate for further consideration.