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State Senator talks about behind-the-scenes effort for revenge porn bill

State Senator talks about behind-the-scenes effort for revenge porn bill. (KTUL)

"You mind goes blank, it's like staring at a train that's coming at you. Is this still happening? It's bigger than me and you can't get away from it," said Heavin Taylor.

In February, Taylor told her story publicly for the first time. Someone she once trusted posted naked photos of her online. She's been dealing with the shame for five years.

"People are telling you send them more pictures or else," said Taylor back in February.

What happened to her is more commonly known as "Revenge Porn."

It can be defined as anything from simple naked photos to sex tapes that are taken with the understanding that they are private and not meant to be shared.

Posting revenge porn wasn't illegal in Oklahoma until Oklahoma State Sen. David Holt stepped in.

"My first instinct was gosh, do I really want to be standing on the floor of the Oklahoma senate saying the words 'revenge porn.' It's an explicit topic," said Holt.

But he decided he needed to talk about it and proposed Senate Bill 1257 for the 2016 Oklahoma Legislative Session.

"Can my colleagues handle it? Do they want to handle it?" said Holt in a phone interview with Channel 8's investigative team.

Holt's original bill made posting revenge porn illegal; the first offense was a misdemeanor and the second offense was a felony with the possibility of prison time and a fine.

Now, for the first time, Holt is writing about how the bill was passed on his website.

Holt says when he first proposed the bill in January he thought he was on his own. But then Channel 8 stepped in.

"Maureen had come across my bill and wanted to talk to me about it. She did and ended up doing a great story about it. Her interest and the stories she continued to produce throughout the session gave me ammo I needed," wrote Holt on his blog.

At the time, Channel 8's I-Team had already been working on the story with Taylor for two months. When the bill went online Maureen Wurtz contacted Holt.

"Within a few days, you did a great piece on it. That was something I used," said Holt. "I shared the link to your piece with my colleagues when I felt they were reticent about approving the measure and throughout the process."

Holt says the bill was assigned to two different committees, which was troubling because it wasn't going to be heard in one of the committees. He said that would mean that SB 1257 would likely be killed at the start of the session.

However, Holt says he was able to navigate through the process and the bill ended up with the Appropriations Committee.

"In that first committee hearing, in appropriations, I had one senator in particular who really grilled me and was uncomfortable with the bill. (The senator) felt that it was not appropriate to criminalize behavior that he felt was common and forgivable," said Holt.

Holt says even though he hit a roadblock he wasn't going to give up.

"Kind of rooted in a 'boys will be boys' mentality. Well, she should have not let him take that picture in the first place, but that kind of victim blaming is so prevalent in the domestic violence conversation," said Holt.

Holt was able to get the bill through appropriations, then through the Senate. That's when Holt passed the baton to Rep. John Paul Jordan.

Channel 8 did a follow-up story with Jordan at which time Taylor met with House representatives to share her story.

"She met with members of the House on camera and talked with them about the bill, that was enormously helpful," said Holt. "If they were going to be against this bill, people were going to notice."

However, soon after taking the bill to the House, Jordan ran into a roadblock. At the time, a House committee wasn't planning on hearing the bill.

"They felt the governor was likely to veto this bill, because she had kind of given the impression that she was going to veto any bill that created new crimes," said Holt.

Holt says he and Jordan decided to change the penalty for revenge porn in the language of the bill. Instead of the second offense being a felony they changed it to a misdemeanor.

"I still had to get the governor's office to say that they were OK with the bill and contact the speaker of the House to tell them that to get a hearing on the house floor," said Holt.

The bill went through the House and passed unanimously, and Gov. Mary Fallin signed it into law in May.

Holt says SB 1257 was one of just a few bills he was most proud of during the session.

"The harder it is the more worthwhile it is. If it had been easy, we wouldn't be talking about it today," said Holt.

He says making it illegal won't stop revenge porn altogether, but it'll give something to victims they haven't had before.

"It gives victims a recourse- because today they feel nothing but helplessness when that occurs," said Holt.

The law goes into effect Nov 1.

For more stories on revenge porn, click here.

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