Bill to protect Virginians from ‘cyber flashers’ is nearly law

Virginia’s divided legislature is coming together to make it harder for so-called “cyber flashers” to get away with their crimes.

A bipartisan bill addressing indecent exposure online had already passed through the commonwealth’s Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, and went through the Republican-controlled House of Delegates on Tuesday.

The bill, SB 493, heads back to the Senate for the adoption of an amendment before making its way to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s desk.

SB 493 targets offenders who knowingly send intimate images to another adult online without that person’s consent. In the bill’s current language, the person who received the explicit image can sue for damages or $500 — whichever is greater.

A court can restrain an offender from committing the act again.

“Today, Democrats and Republicans together took action to protect Virginians from receiving unwanted intimate photos,” said Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, in a Tuesday night news release.

“Virginians deserve protection from indecent exposure, whether it’s online or offline. I appreciate the work of the bipartisan leaders behind this bill and the constituents who advocated for it. I look forward to Gov. Youngkin signing this bill to make Virginia safer and stop perpetrators who send unwanted lewd photos.”

McLellan, the bill’s chief patron, cited a 2017 Pew survey that found that 53% of young American women have been sent unsolicited explicit material while online, as have 37% of young American men.

The bill intends to address cyber flashers who target those 18 and older since there are already laws in place to protect minors from such behavior.

WTOP’s Michelle Basch contributed to this report.

Matthew Delaney

Matt Delaney is a digital web writer/editor who joined WTOP in 2020.

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