Multiple laws passed during the 86th Texas Legislature have a variety of effects on college communities. The law that criminalizes sending unwanted nudes electronically is one that could impact how sexual harassment is handled on campus.
House Bill 2789 went into effect on Sept. 1, according to the Texas Legislature Online website. The law criminalizes sending unsolicited nudes electronically.
One commits the offense when he or she intentionally sends sexually explicit visual material, which can consist of nudes, visuals showing people having sex or visuals of a male with an erection, without consent from the recipient, according to the Texas Legislature Online website. The offense under this law is a Class C misdemeanor.
Regarding the law’s impact among college communities, Kimberly Simón, Tech Title IX administrator, said the department will have to wait and see how students respond to understand if there are any effects on the college population at Tech.
“We’ve had students that have reported that conduct in the past, even when it wasn’t against the law,” she said. “Because our policies and procedures obviously are administrative and not criminal, so that’s always been something that they can file a report under our code of conduct.”
Even though she is unsure if the reporting of unsolicited nudes will go up or down on campus, Simón said the law could have some impact at the college level.
“I think it will at least raise awareness that if somebody received one of these messages, and they’re not comfortable, this new law may kind of spark them to go, ‘OK, well there’s maybe some recourse to that,’” she said.
For those who want to report a person sending them unsolicited nudes, Simón said someone can make an online report on the Tech Title IX website or come to the office, located in Room 115D of the Administration Building, or visit the Tech Risk Intervention and Safety Education office in Suite 247 of Drane Hall. When in a bad situation, she said students typically talk to an employee on campus, who are trained to report the information to the correct authorities.
At the Tech, Simón said multiple resources are made available so a student can report an incident in whatever way makes the most sense for them.
“At least at the institution, we try to set it up that regardless of where a student goes they can have all of their options available,” she said regarding if a student wanted to first report the issue to Tech Title IX or to the Tech Police Department.
Regardless of how one reports, Simón said how a campus entity deals with the incident depends on how a student wants to resolve the situation. She said one may just file report, host a mediation between both parties, issue a no-contact order or take part in a formal hearing.
For those who want to report receiving unsolicited nudes to the police, Jill Stangl, managing director and attorney at law at Tech Student Legal Services, said one may not know how this law will be enforced.
“We don’t know how enforcement will be handled at a local level,” she said. “Because this is a ticketable offense, meaning it’s a Class C misdemeanor, anybody that feels as though they have been the victim of this offense would report it to law enforcement just like they would report anything else.”
Among the many people who have received unsolicited nudes electronically, whether it be on dating sites or not, Stangl said there is a deterrent component to the law.
“Enforcement might be an issue, but the deterrent component seems to be the most important piece to the bill’s author,” she said.
Regarding information and thoughts on the law, Stangl said there is a lot to analyze. She said one would need to see how local law enforcement deals with these issues.
“It will be interesting to see if it gets enforced,” she said.
Despite how the law will be enforced on or off campus, individuals may be able to make an impact.
Kelsey Lueck, program manager for peer education and violence prevention at Tech RISE, said enforcing the law starts with normal people taking action.
“I think this is a person-led law for sure,” she said. “We’re going to have to have active bystanders on our campus and in the state of Texas.”
If a student knows of a friend who has received unsolicited pictures from someone, Lueck said it is up to the student tell them about this law. She said one should try to work it into conversations regarding the subject matter of dating and consent.
“I think it’s everyone’s personal mission to inform and educate people about it,” she said regarding how the actual enforcement is going to come from bystander intervention.
The law can be beneficial for multiple reasons, Lueck said. The laws show that the state government supports healthy relationships and wants people to take a prevention standard to sexual violence.
“The really cool thing that hits home with this bill specifically is this is our state saying that sexual violence isn’t cool,” she said, “that we deserve to be respected as human beings and consent is a big thing.”