Politics April 19, 2017
Previously the law required survivors prove they had physically fought their attackers in order to establish a crime had occurred.
Maryland just passed a life-changing bill for sexual assault survivors.
SB 217 changes the state’s legal definition of rape, and removes a previous requirement that survivors prove that they had physically fought their attackers in order to establish that a crime had occurred.
It sounds like a pretty stupid stipulation, since it’s obviously not always safe to fight back. And last year BuzzFeed unearthed a collection of frightening cases reported in Baltimore in which women certainly felt too scared to strike their attackers.
But that was the law when it came to rape in Maryland – the statute required “evidence of force” or “threat of physical force” and “lack of consent” in order to charge someone with a sexual offense.
Sen. Delores Kelley sponsored the change, which was signed into law by Governor Larry Hogan. “Given that survivors increase their chances of being maimed or killed if trying to physically resist the rape, this bill will clarify that a victim of rape does not have to fight the perpetrator or put up physical resistance in order for the court to hand down a guilty verdict,” she said.
The new law is a big win for sexual assault survivors in Maryland, who now no longer have to worry about choosing between further endangering their lives or losing any hope at justice. This change also brings Maryland’s law more on par with the rest of the country.
Supporters applauded the decision – at long last. “Our criminal law should recognize that no means no,” said Lisae C. Jordan, executive director & counsel for the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
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