Woodhull Supports Rights of Sex Abuse Victims to Share Stories in Supreme Court Brief
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — March 20, 2020 — Washington, DC
The Woodhull Freedom Foundation filed an Amicus (“Friend of the Court”) Brief with the United States Supreme Court in the case of Austin v. Illinois, Case No.: 19-1029, supporting a constitutional challenge to an Illinois law that harms victims of sexual abuse and harassment. The case involves a woman who was prosecuted under a state statute prohibiting non-consensual distribution of sexually-explicit images. Ms. Austin was found guilty of violating the law when she shared images of her ex-fiancé’s paramour with some family members to defend herself against false accusations that he ended the relationship because she was “crazy.”
The Illinois Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of this broad statute which criminalizes speech based on its sexual content and broadly applies even to victims of sexual abuse who choose to share their experiences or seek help. Given the rash of “revenge porn” laws being passed across the country, it is important that the courts protect the free speech rights of all parties when reviewing these statutes. “Woodhull is concerned both with the infringement upon sexual freedom rights and the negative impact on victims of cyber harassment,” said Ricci Levy, CEO of Woodhull. “If the Supreme Court does not review this case, many participants in the #MeToo movement could be silenced due to fear of prosecution under this overbroad law,” added Lawrence G. Walters, Esq., of Walters Law Group, who filed the brief on behalf of Woodhull.
The Petition for certiorari review filed in this case argues that the law is unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments as a content-based restriction on speech, which fails to include any malicious intent element to prove a violation. It urges the Court to grant review of the case and subject the Illinois statute to the constitutionally required strict scrutiny test that the lower court refused to utilize. Woodhull’s mission focuses on advocating for sexual freedom as a fundamental human right and protecting victims of sexual abuse. Woodhull’s brief can be found here.