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Katie Hill fights to make pornographic revenge a federal crime

Katie Hill has faced deep lows since resigning from Congress after nude images of her were shown around the world without her consent. She feared for her physical safety during her divorce; she had suicidal thoughts, nightmares, growing legal debt, and anxiety about being acknowledged.

The 33-year-old is now channeling her energy and using her infamy to try to ensure that what has happened to her does not happen to others, by making non-consensual dissemination of intimate images a federal crime.

” This has not been easy. I think I’m someone who has to kind of hold on to a cause … or a goal. So that gives me something that I know I can fight for on behalf of other people, ”Hill said in a Zoom interview. from the east coast. “And I think that’s a very important thing for me personally and for my recovery as well.”

She plans to run again, although she is concerned about the toll, including the effects on her mental health and the risks to her safety.

“I don’t feel I have to [seek office], other than showing that people can get over things, and if you’ve been given a mission to do something and people are trying to turn you away from it, don’t let them, ”Hill said. “But I don’t know if that’s a sufficient reason.”

The former rising Democratic star brooded over the second anniversary of her departure from what she described as an abusive marriage in a breakup that sparked a chain of events that led to her resignation from Congress.

Some Democrats believe Hill still has a bright future in the party and could make a comeback.

“I think a lot of people, especially Democrats and Democratic women, feel like they’ve been the victim of public intimidation because of these photos, and it’s something that should be illegal and a woman not. shouldn’t lose her job because of something like this, ”said Katie Merrill, a veteran Democratic strategist from California. “People think she has a bright future ahead of her, and she highlights an issue that is really important because it is essentially a 21st century version of domestic violence that took place in public so that everyone can see it. “

Hill recently made headlines because a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge dismissed a lawsuit she brought against two media companies and a reporter involved in posting the photos, who, she said violated California’s vengeful pornography law. An exemption in the law that allows the publication of provocative images if it is in the “public interest” was among the reasons the case was dismissed and Hill was ordered to pay approximately $ 220,000 to cover the costs. attorney fees for defendants, a figure that could grow. This is on top of the $ 100,000 she owes her own lawyer.

Hill’s main cause right now is the reauthorization of the violence against women law, updated to make intimate image sharing a federal crime, regardless of intent. The House adopted the proposal; we do not know when the Senate will vote. Two key sticking points are efforts to extend existing restrictions on firearms to those convicted of dating abuse or harassment, and to provide protection for the LGBTQ community.

Hill plans to use her political action committee – HER Time – to garner support from senators she considers convincing in states such as Arizona, Iowa, Maine and Utah.

“The reason this is so important is that when a federal penal provision is passed it shows that it is a serious crime, that it is not something that you know is people can get away with it, ”she said, adding that the patchwork of state laws is inconsistent and cyber exploitation does not follow state borders. “It also has this expressive impact on the victims that it’s not your fault – that you are the victim of a crime.”

The law would not apply to her situation, as it would not be retroactive and it includes an exemption for public interest images, like the California law which was one of the main reasons her case was rejected.

Hill wants to appeal the rulings in her case because she believes there is a need to clarify who exactly is a public figure and that her trial should be heard by a jury. But she is worried about the financial impact.

“Personally, the risk is really high,” she said.

While she wasn’t surprised by the judge’s latest rulings, Hill said, they sparked yet another trauma.

“It’s just that kind of emotional defeat and it’s very dehumanizing,” she said. “It really makes you wonder what all this is for. I step away from that and think, “I’ve got over a third of a million dollars in debt now, and what for, you know?” What for this trial? For nothing.'”

Hill was a political novice in 2018 who gained national attention when she was elected to Congress, toppling a GOP seat representing northern Los Angeles County.

Less than a year later, while the MP was going through a divorce, a Tory website and UK tabloid published, without Hill’s consent, nude footage of her brushing another woman’s hair, holding a bong and sunbathing. She accused her ex-husband of sharing the photos with the media; he did not respond to the trial.

Faced with rumors that there was a cache of 700 more images and screenshots of provocative texts shared between his enemies, Hill resigned.

Hill wrote about the idea of ​​committing suicide immediately afterwards. She avoided demonstrations and other community events she would have attended before. She tries to stay out of public sight when she visits her mother. Recently, she has felt anxiety about being recognized as she no longer has to wear face masks in many places as the nation emerges from the pandemic.

“There hasn’t been any closure in this chapter of my life and I don’t know if or when there ever will be,” she said. “I have dreams that haunt me all the time. I also had to deal with my own PTSD. And I think I’ve made a lot of progress over the past couple of years and I’ve done a ton of soul searching and thinking. And I know that no matter what, my goal will always be to try to make things better for others.

In addition to re-authorizing the Violence Against Women Act, Hill is working to help women get elected and to counsel young female candidates who may find themselves in positions similar to hers. She also wants to strengthen the state’s statutes on vengeful pornography.

Then there is the opportunity to run for Congress again. The district she briefly represented fell back into the hands of the GOP, represented by Mike Garcia.

“I mean that’s really the question that comes to my mind all the time, and especially when I see Mike Garcia and what he’s doing,” Hill said. “I won with almost 9 points; Biden won the district by 10 points. It is not a district that should be represented by someone so conservative.

She plans to make decisions about her future towards the end of the year. Today she has a message for the voters who supported her.

“I hope people get the impression that their support was not in vain and that it might take a different direction than we thought, but it’s still going somewhere,” Hill said. “And, you know, if the cards line up, then I could hit them again.”

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