New S.C. law criminalizing sexual extortion named in honor of legislator’s late son
ROCK HILL, S.C. (WIS) - A father’s pride was on full display Friday at the Center for the Arts in Rock Hill, as state Rep. Brandon Guffey, R – York, guided Gov. Henry McMaster through a roomful of art bearing the signature of his son, Gavin.
The pieces spanned Gavin’s early years, depicting stick animals drawn in crayon, to ones completed by a teenager, revealing deeper themes, like the power and dark side of social media.
“I’m sure he would be excited to see that the governor’s actually looking at his artwork,” Guffey said.
Now, it is the governor’s signature that is on a new state law, bearing Gavin’s name.
McMaster held a bill signing ceremony Friday at the Center for the Arts, commemorating the enactment of “Gavin’s Law,” which makes sexual extortion, or “sextortion,” a felony in South Carolina, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Sexual extortion is the crime in which people are coerced into sending explicit images, oftentimes to a stranger they have met online, and then extorted for money, usually under threat the photo or video will be released.
Getting “Gavin’s Law” passed was Guffey’s chief purpose in his first year as a state representative.
Just months before he was elected last year, Gavin took his life at age 17, only hours after Guffey says his son was sexually extorted.
“He was so unique,” Guffey said of Gavin. “He didn’t care what anyone thought. He was the kid that would draw something on a t-shirt or wear a costume to school. He loved life.”
Every day at the State House this year, Guffey wore a black-and-white pin with a <3 symbol, how someone might send a heart via text message.
The symbol was the last message Gavin sent his friends last summer before he took his life.
Of course, Guffey had his pin on Friday as well, and so did so many other family, friends, and colleagues who have been there for the Guffey family in the last year.
The bill passed both chambers at the State House unanimously this year, and each time, lawmakers stood at ease for minutes afterward so they could hug Guffey one by one.
“With everything that’s happened, it’s been difficult to move forward. It’s been hard to get out of the bed each day and get going,” Guffey said Friday. “But this community, our state, everyone has rallied together to get this passed.”
As part of the awareness Guffey hopes this spreads, the new law also requires schools to educate South Carolina students and their families about the changes the legislation makes and the dangers of sexual extortion.
The FBI reports thousands of minors were targeted across the country last year and became victims of sextortion, including Gavin.
Guffey said his fight, to crack down on the cybercrime that took his son, isn’t over, especially as artificial intelligence, AI, becomes more commonplace.
“I’ve got a few bills that I’m working on to start next year with,” he said.
But Friday, two days before what would have been Gavin’s 19th birthday, was about marking what’s been accomplished so far, doing it alongside loved ones, and letting a dad brag for a bit to the governor about his son, whose presence is still with him.
“It almost feels like a piece of him is here,” Guffey said.
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