In The People's Blog

On March 21, the Massachusetts Senate unanimously voted to pass An Act to prevent abuse and exploitation

This bipartisan legislation would criminalize the sharing of sexually explicit images or videos without an individual’s consent and implement a comprehensive educational diversion program for adolescents on the consequences of posting indecent visual depictions online. 

The bill also defines coercive control and allows a victim of coercive control to seek a harassment prevention order. This was a priority for our office having previously heard from constituents who have been victims of this type of unhealthy relationship, but who have not been able to secure a harassment prevention order without having experienced physical abuse. 

Northwestern District Attorney Dave Sullivan provided language to strengthen the bill and I worked with my colleagues to include this language in the bill that passed the Senate. 

I am grateful to DA Sullivan for his input on this legislation, and to Senate President Spilka, Ways and Means Chair Rodrigues, and Senators Eldridge and Keenan for leading the Senate to address online abuse and abusive relationships. 

This is the second time the Senate has passed a version of this legislation. A version of the bill passed the House earlier this session, and now the two branches will reconcile the differences between the two bills before sending a final version to Governor Healey for her consideration. 

Read on to learn more about the bill. 


The bill requires the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) to develop and implement a comprehensive educational diversion program designed for adolescents on the consequences of sexting and posting indecent visuals online. It also requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to encourage school districts to implement instruction on age-appropriate media literacy skills and to use this content from the Office of the Child Advocate’s comprehensive educational diversion program.

The bill defines coercive control as a single act or pattern of behavior intended to threaten, intimidate, control, or compel compliance of a family or household member that causes a fear of physical harm or a reduced sense of physical safety. It allows an individual to seek an abuse prevention order if the individual is the victim of coercive control by a family or household member or a person with whom they were in a substantive dating relationship. An amendment was adopted to allow a victim of coercive control to seek a harassment prevention order. Defining coercive control would raise awareness among the public and professionals, facilitating early intervention and prevention efforts to support victims and hold perpetrators accountable.

The legislation also requires the diversion of a child alleged to be a juvenile delinquent for violating laws prohibiting the possession or dissemination of certain explicit visual material unless the court finds that failure to proceed with the arraignment would result in the substantial likelihood of serious harm to a member of the community.

The allowable fine for criminal harassment would increase from $1,000 to $5,000, and a new criminal offense would be established for the unlawful distribution of certain visual material depicting another person who is nude, partially nude or engaged in sexual conduct without their consent. The bill also establishes a new juvenile offense for the unlawful possession or dissemination of certain explicit visual material. An amendment was adopted that would create a commission to examine and investigate the potential impacts and legal implications of advances in technology and the internet on the protection of individuals from harm, abuse and exploitation.

The legislation has garnered support from supporters around the state.

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