HARRISBURG—The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) is pleased to announce the passage of House Bill 1402, sponsored by Representatives Tedd Nesbit and Joanna McClinton. The bi-partisan bill received unanimous support in the House and Senate, to establish sexual extortion as a new crime. This legislation clarifies and elevates the crime of sexual extortion, which will improve Pennsylvania’s ability to identify, report, charge, and prosecute this sex crime.
Individuals commit sexual extortion when they coerce sexual acts, images, or videos from a victim. Coercion can involve threats of harm to a victim or their family member, withholding something of need or value, or, offering a reward or service to coerce the victim to comply with demands for sexual acts, images, or videos.
Sexual extortion comes in many forms, such as when a person threatens loss of housing or employment; reputational or physical harm to a victim or a family member, or a reduced penalty from person in a position of authority.
Prior to the passage of HB 1402, there was insufficient legal standing to address acts of sexual extortion. This allowed these abusive acts to persist without legal intervention. Once the legislation is adopted, prosecutors and courts will have explicit authority to hold those who commit sexual extortion accountable and provide victims with a pathway for justice and assistance. It will also impose tougher penalties for people committing this abuse in positions of trust or authority, or those who have the power to discipline or supervise the victim, as well as people who target children or individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities.
“This has been a top legislative priority for PCAR and the network of rape crisis centers throughout the State,” Donna Greco, PCAR Policy Director, said after the bill passed This bill will help protect victims who have been caught in Catch-22 situations—forced by people in positions of power or authority, to either comply with demands for sex or lose their access to basic needs, services, and safety. This legislation will also help enhance the safety of our communities from online sexual extortion, which is a growing threat in this current digital age.”
Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association (PDAA) President Ray Tonkin added:
“We appreciate our close working relationship with PCAR on our joint efforts to improve Pennsylvania’s laws to help victims of sexual extortion achieve justice. PCAR’s ability to effectively educate so many about the existence and dangers of sexual extortion was a key component to the bill’s ultimate success.”
PCAR also thanks PDAA for their partnership on this legislation and the leadership of Senators Judy Schwank and Kim Ward for championing this critical issue in the Senate. Governor Wolf is expected to sign HB 1402 in the near future.
PCAR works to end sexual violence and advocates for the rights and needs of sexual assault victims. We partner with a network of victim service programs to bring help, hope, and healing to people in all of the Commonwealth’s 67 counties. Each year, victim service programs provided services to approximately 30,000 victims. Each year, victim service programs teach over 300,000 Pennsylvanians how to stop sexual harassment, abuse and assault in their communities. Over 50,000 professionals are trained by victim service programs to enhance the Commonwealth’s systemic responses to victims.