By Team

TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/AP) — State Sen. Lauren Book is fighting back after learning that nude images stolen from her have been bought and traded online since 2000.

The revelation came during an investigation into someone who tried to extort her by threatening to reveal the stolen photos.

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Book, who has often spoken about being sexually abused as a child by her nanny, has channeled the pain into a lifetime of helping other abuse survivors.

Now after years of working hard to heal herself and restore her life, she’s been victimized again.

“I hate that this happened to me,” Book told The Associated Press in an interview. “I hate it, I hate it, I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. But I’ll take it because I know that I can do something about it.”

Book is taking action as only a legislator can. While the pain came rushing back, so did her spirit to fight, and she’s seeking a new law to try to prevent others from being victimized.

The bill sponsored by Book, a Democrat, was introduced and advanced after its first committee hearing Tuesday. It would strengthen Florida’s revenge porn law by making it a felony to steal sexually explicit images from someone’s phone or other digital devices. It would also make disseminating altered or created sexually explicit images, known as deepfakes, a felony.

Book vented her anger in the phone interview with the AP Monday night as she described the international trade and sale of images stolen from people without their knowledge. She cursed loudly at times and sometimes choked back tears. She called it a sick, perverted subculture that pays more for images of celebrities and elected officials, but which also victimizes women who aren’t well known.

“Truth be told, if it weren’t for my children, I would have ended my life,” she said. “It brought up all of the stuff. All of it that you think that you’ve gotten under your belt, that you’ve fixed it and you’ve changed it and then all of a sudden here it is in front of your face.”

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And the conversations people had on the website made the horror worse.

“They were reading about who I was and talking about how I’m a survivor of rape, so let’s try to get some rape videos. Can we get some of her getting raped, killed, tortured? Can we make some of that? Can we find it? How can we get it?” Book said.

Book still doesn’t know how the images were stolen. But she said investigators told her the images the teenager used to try to extort her were sent from virtual private networks in Sweden and Russia.

As a 17-year-old daughter of an influential lobbyist, she found the courage while battling anorexia, sleepless nights, and crying fits to go to Tallahassee and convince lawmakers and then-Gov. Jeb Bush to pass a law requiring HIV tests for rape suspects.

Now she’s a 37-year-old senator and feels blessed to be in a position to fight back, with the resources to hire an attorney to have images removed from websites. Many others don’t.

Still, while her childhood abuse had a beginning and an end — her abuser was prosecuted and imprisoned — this case will go on forever.

“There are still things up there. Still. They’ll never be gone. People were buying it, people were trading it, and this is not unique. This is happening every single day, to women predominantly,” she said.

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(© Copyright 2022 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.) Team