Voyeurism occurs when someone views, photographs, or films another person without the victim’s knowledge or consent, so long as there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. Under current law, a person would have to commit the act for the purpose of arousal or sexual gratification in order to be found guilty. McCabe says proving whether someone was seeking sexual gratification is too difficult a standard to meet for some crimes.
“We needed a bill that went beyond addressing your typical ‘peeping Tom’ situations,” said McCabe. “Unfortunately, some individuals have recently been ‘upskirted’ in a school and at Sea-Tac airport, and had my bill been enacted at the time, those victims would have had a clear course of action. House Bill 1200 gives prosecutors another tool in their toolbox to prosecute these wrongful acts.”
In July 2016, a Sea-Tac TSA agent was caught ‘upskirting,’ or filming up a traveler’s skirt, while they rode up an escalator, and nearly two years ago, a teacher at a Vancouver school was accused of inappropriately photographing female students.
House Bill 1200 creates the crime of voyeurism in the second degree. Under the new law, prosecutors would have to prove whether a perpetrator intended to distribute or disseminate photographs or videos of a victim’s intimate areas in order to convict. Ensuring current law keeps pace with changing technologies was one of McCabe’s focuses in drafting the bill.
“Live streaming capabilities in this new social media era makes it so you can share inappropriate images in real-time and to large audiences,” she said. “We must ensure the bills we enact into law can be applied to the technologies of today and tomorrow.”
McCabe, a former varsity coach and performing arts studio owner, first came up with the idea for the bill when some of the cheerleaders she coached asked to not wear their skirts for performances out of fear classmates would ‘upskirt’ them, and then share the photos or videos with fellow students.
Under House Bill 1200, current law on voyeurism will become voyeurism in the first degree.
The bill will take effect in July.