Victims of domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault will be able to breathe a little bit easier, thanks to a new law going into effect Oct. 1, 2016.
The new legislation redefines what stalking means so it's easier for stalkers to be successfully prosecuted.
"Stalking and harassment are extremely traumatic for domestic violence and sexual assault victims/survivors and cause serious and on-going emotional distress to them," said Michaele Cohen, Executive Director of the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence. "These behaviors can include not only following them but using the telephone, internet, social media and other electronic means to harass and frighten them."
So what does the new law change?
Right now, stalking is defined as a "malicious course of conduct that includes approaching or pursuing another where the person intends to place or knows or reasonably should have known the conduct would place another in reasonable fear of: serious bodily injury; an assault in any degree; rape or sexual offense or attempted rape or sexual offense; false imprisonment; or death."
On the first of October, the law will add that anyone charged with stalking "intends to cause or knows or reasonably should have known that the conduct would cause serious emotional distress to another."
The list of harassing and stalking behaviors will be expanded to add the misuse of telephone facilities, the misuse of electronic communication, revenge porn and visual surveillance.
If you want more information about local domestic violence programs, call the MNADV helpline at 1-800-MD-HELPS (1-800-634-3577).