Thank you, New Jersey!

New Jersey has done it. They have made a law that makes it illegal for perpetrators to post unauthorized intimate photos of women.

It is a third degree criminal offense, which means that the perpetrator can be sentenced to 3-5 years in prison and can be fined up to $15,000.

New Jersey’s Stat. Ann. 2C:14-9:

An actor commits a crime of the third degree if, knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so, he discloses any photograph, film, videotape, recording or any other reproduction of the image of another person whose intimate parts are exposed or who is engaged in an act of sexual penetration or sexual contact, unless that person has consented to such disclosure. For purposes of this subsection, “disclose” means sell, manufacture, give, provide, lend, trade, mail, deliver, transfer, publish, distribute, circulate, disseminate, present, exhibit, advertise or offer.

 

 

Tremendous Victory in Annapolis

At 1:00 today, SB 107 and SB 175 went before the judicial committee. We were the fifth bill(s) to be presented. I sat in the front row of chairs, directly behind the podium where individuals were giving testimony. In those moments of waiting, I frantically scratched notes, double-check sources and rehearsed my testimony. Sitting on my right was Trooper R- from the Maryland State Police. On my left was his Commander. And on his left was the head of Government Affairs for the MD State Police. They were there to support me and to testify that these bills will make it easier for them to do their jobs. Behind me and to my left sat Vector, quietly supporting me.

After Senators Raskin and Brochin introduced the bills, I was asked to testify. I had three minutes to deliver my story in bulleted points and sparse narrative. As I was speaking, I could hear reactions from the people on the committee in front of me, and the supporters sitting behind me. There were gasps, an, “oh!” and I’m pretty sure I heard a “my God!” It was heartening to hear empathy in the room.

The reactions from the committee were strong.  As more people came up to testify – lawyers, state’s attorneys, domestic violence representatives, the room’s atmosphere grew heavier with the awareness that online harassment and stalking is now a very serious crime and that the current legislation has failed many victims.

After all the testimony had been heard, and I left the proceedings room, I was approached by committee members, senators, other witnesses and spectators. I was called “courageous” “a warrior” and “brave.” I was thanked, hugged and I shook many a hand. I wish I could say I was aware of what was being said, but my vision was blurry, and my head felt like it was filed with cotton. I was dizzy from the impact of what I had just done.

In case I didn’t say it, I deeply thank everyone who was there to support these bills.

And to my friends, family, therapist, schoolmates, Trooper R-, Vector, J!, and Mom and Dad (who listened to the live stream of the proceedings!) I love you all dearly for walking this path with me.  Your presence, words, time, and unconditional love allowed me to carry myself with grace and dignity when I wanted to hide in shame.

Here is a link where you can listen to the judicial proceedings:

http://mlis.state.md.us/mgaweb/senatecmtaudio.aspx

I’m going to Annapolis!

 

Here it is, SB 107 Criminal Law – Electronic Harassment – Penalties, is scheduled to have a hearing in Judicial Proceedings Review in TWO WEEKS!

http://mlis.state.md.us/2012rs/bills/sb/sb0107f.pdf

 

 

I’m not the only one…

As it turns out, HB 8 is not the bill I proposed after all. Here’s mine:

http://mlis.state.md.us/2012rs/billfile/sb0107.htm

Still waiting on the full bill text and hearing date…

The Federal Legislation is Also Going Before the Judiciary Committee

More good news:

 

Sen. Cardin has agreed to co-sponsor federal legislation which would reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and it includes the new cyber-stalking provisions I had sent earlier.
S.1925 [112th]
Latest Title: Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011
Sponsor: Sen Leahy, Patrick J. [D-VT] (introduced 11/30/2011)      Cosponsors: 19
Committees: Senate Judiciary
Latest Major Action: 11/30/2011 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

It’s a bill! – HB 8 – And it’s on the schedule!

I realize this information will reveal a lot about me; however, it feels like the time to break my anonymity.

While I haven’t heard anything official about testifying, a search of the Maryland General Assembly’s website gave me the good news I’ve been waiting for – the draft bill I submitted and have been working to revise with a bill writer has been officially made a bill and has been given a number. It is on the scheduled to go before the Judiciary committee on 19 January.  To say I am astounded would be a gross understatement.  This is really happening. I made this happen. Wow.

HB 8

Delegate Washington

CRIMES – ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION – HARASSMENT

Changing the prohibition against using electronic mail with the intent to harass to prohibit engaging in electronic communication with the intent to harass; changing the defined term “electronic mail” to “electronic communication” and altering the definition; and establishing penalties for a second or subsequent violation of the Act.

EFFECTIVE OCTOBER 1, 2012 CR, § 3-805 – amended Assigned to: Judiciary

http://mlis.state.md.us/2012rs/CurrentStatusReport/HouseCurrentStatusReport.pdf

http://mlis.state.md.us/2012rs/synopsis/syh_new.pdf

THURSDAY JANUARY 19, 2012

                                  1:00 P.M.

  HB 4      Del Cardin, et    Baltimore County - Orphans' Court Judges -
            al                Qualifications
  HB 8 Del Washington Crimes - Electronic Communication - Harassment
  HB 39     Del Smigiel       State and Local Govt - Officials and General
                              Assembly Mbrs - Legislative Privilege Exception

  NOTE:  To Be Announced.

FEDERAL LEGISLATION!

This just in from the Chief Counsel…

 

“Just yesterday Senator Leahy introduced legislation to reauthorize the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).  The legislation includes Sec. 107. Criminal provision relating to stalking, including cyberstalking.   This section updates the federal anti-stalking statute to capture more modern forms of communication that perpetrators use to stalk their victims.  I have attached the draft language for this new definition for your reference:

 

SEC. 107. CRIMINAL PROVISION RELATING TO STALKING,

INCLUDING CYBERSTALKING.

 

3 Section 2261A of title 18, United States Code, is

4 amended to read as follows:

 

‘‘§ 2261A. Stalking

 

6 ‘‘Whoever—

 

7        ‘‘(1) travels in interstate or foreign commerce

8 or is present within the special maritime and

9 territorial jurisdiction of the United States, or enters or

10 leaves Indian country, with the intent to kill, injure,

11 harass, intimidate, or place under surveillance with

12 intent to kill, injure, harass, or intimidate another

13 person, and in the course of, or as a result of, such

14 travel or presence engages in conduct that—

15               ‘‘(A) places that person in reasonable fear

16 of the death of, or serious bodily injury to—

17                         ‘‘(i) that person;

18                         ‘‘(ii) an immediate family member (as

19               defined in section 115) of that person; or

20                         ‘‘(iii) a spouse or intimate partner of

21               that person; or

22               ‘‘(B) causes or attempts to cause or would

23 be reasonably expected to cause substantial

24 emotional distress to a person described in

25 clause (i), (ii), or (iii) of subparagraph (A); or

 

JEN11D75 S.L.C.

 

1        ‘‘(2) with the intent to kill, injure, harass, in

2 intimidate, or place under surveillance with intent to

3 kill, injure, harass, or intimidate another person,

4 uses the mail, any interactive computer service or

5 electronic communication service or electronic

6 communication system of interstate commerce, or any

7 other facility of interstate or foreign commerce to

8 engage in a course of conduct that—

9                 ‘‘(A) places that person in reasonable fear

10 of the death of or serious bodily injury to a

11 person described in clause (i), (ii), or (iii) of

12 paragraph (1)(A); or

13               ‘‘(B) causes or attempts to cause or would

14 be reasonably expected to cause substantial

15 emotional distress to a person described in

16 clause (i), (ii), or (iii) of paragraph (1)(A),

17 shall be punished as provided in section 2261(b) of

18 this title.’’.

 

See attached press release:

 

http://leahy.senate.gov/press/press_releases/release/?id=0AA06EE7-D9B4-4E40-B635-9D46832A3CBC

 

Legislative history:

 

13. S.1925 : A bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act of 1994.
Sponsor: Sen Leahy, Patrick J. [VT] (introduced 11/30/2011)      Cosponsors (1)
Committees: Senate Judiciary
Latest Major Action: 11/30/2011 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

 

US Department of Justice – Violence Against Women Act Office – Stalking Section

 

http://www.ovw.usdoj.gov/aboutstalking.htm

 

Also, can you please copy Sen. <insert name of state senator for my district> legislative aide on your reply to this e-mail, so that we are connected as we work on federal and state legislation?  Thanks.”

 

Building a Coalition

Another representative from another Senator’s office contacted me today. Oh, but not ‘just another representative’ – the Chief Counsel rang me up! And he was brimming with advice about what I need to do next in order to see these bills into legislation.

He also reassured me that, so far, I am on the right track and getting the support of the right people.

And…he is going to “do some additional research into federal legislation on this issue as well as the upcoming Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) now pending in Congress”

Federal. Legislation.

Congress.

Wow. I am completely overwhelmed. You see, to be even more brutally honest than I already have been, I was so inept regarding all things political, legislative, legal, criminal, etc, that I had to go to You Tube and watch the Schoolhouse Rock “How a Bill Becomes a Law: I’m Just a Bill” episode. Then I started reading about the legislative process and writing bills and lobbying. I studied statutes – the format, the language. I took copious notes and bookmarked dozens of reference links. While I’m far from qualified for a position in politics, I can talk the talk now and actually understand what I’m saying. Never before has the phrase, “I am always learning” been more apt.

It has been terrifying putting myself out there as I have over the past three months. I don’t do vulnerable well, but in order to be heard, I had to take this risk. I would like to say I am glad I did, but I am going to reserve that until these bills are made laws. Then I’ll be glad. Make no mistake, I am perfectly thrilled that I’ve come this far. And exceptionally motivated to push further. But I simply won’t be happy until I see this to its fruition.

Now to build a coalition (Once I look up the definition of ‘coalition’).

I also have to contemplate just how badly that County Cop failed me. If I feel it was significant, I can file a complaint. I haven’t thought of that. But I am glad I didn’t – in my fury I would have gone overboard, I’m sure. Now that I have let some of my anger go, I can approach that rather delicate issue more rationally. It is his livelihood, after all. Do I want to disrupt his as mine has been disrupted?

I’ve Been Asked to Testify

Black Friday, indeed…as the retail stores climb their way out of the red and into the black, so do I pull myself out of despair.

My State Senator contacted me today. Called my cell phone. On Black Friday.

On 19 November I sent him an email explaining my case and asking for a meeting to propose new legislation. I sent the same email to his Delegates as well. You know…just in case…

I wrote:

“Senator [name],

I am the victim of online harassment and online stalking. Unfortunately, due to the current lack of legislation regarding these offenses, my harasser/stalker will go unpunished.

I have met with a legislative aide from US Senator [name]‘s office ([name]) who suggested I contact you.

In 2010, when the harassment began, I quickly sought the help of the [local] county police. The officer who took my report simply said there was nothing he could do.

My stalker began harassing me again in September 2011. Although I have been diligently researching resources and found the [name] State Computer Crimes Unit, the Trooper who took my case can not assist me in pressing criminal charges. There are simply too many weaknesses in the current legislation.

Senator, I would like to talk to you about passing legislation that will protect victims of online harassment and online stalking.

I have been researching the current legislation regarding online harassment and online stalking and drafted two bills, one proposing legislation for Digital Impersonation and the other amending the current Online Stalking statutes. Also, I am working with the Trooper from the Computer Crimes Division of the [name] State Police to draft a bill amending the current online harassment statutes.

I’d like to discuss these draft bills with you and discuss working together to move them into legislation.

As a result of the harassment I’ve experienced, I have had to go on medical leave from work (I am a [title] of [a subject] at [a school], so I am available to meet with you on the day and at the time that is most convenient for you.

I can be reached at [123-456-7890] or at [DeliaV@gmail.com].

For detailed information about my case, please see my blog which is maintained under a pseudonym to protect myself and my children: www.deliav.com. If you are interested in reading my professional writing, please see my blog at [URL]. For updates regarding my case, I can be followed on Twitter: @deliavenditti

Thank you for your time and consideration,
~[Delia Venditti]“

As it turns out, this issue was to go to legislation twice before…for some reason, one in which I will learn, it was swept to the side. As a result, My State Senator is very motivated and fully supports my issue.

In fact, he asked me if I would testify before Congress.

So I’ll testify. Can I get an A-men?

His Chief of Staff will be contacting me sometime during the first two weeks of December. We will then meet to revise my draft bills and prepare them to go before Congress.

The new session starts in January.

Can I get a Hell-yeah?

Progress

It has been an emotionally exhausting few days. I needed time to process my thoughts about my meeting with my State Senator’s Legislative Aide.

The meeting went well. I presented 2 draft bills, one that mirrors New York’s recent legislation that makes Digital Impersonation a crime http://open.nysenate.gov/legislation/bill/S4015A-2011 .

The other draft bill proposes an Online Stalking Law. Currently, most legislation does not separate Stalking from Online Stalking, so Online Stalkers are not prosecuted, as their behaviors fall slightly outside the limits of the law.

I also discussed the draft bill I am working on to strengthen my State’s Online Harassment laws.

The aide with whom I met was eager to assist me in researching current legislation and other groups who may be working on similar legislation. She told me she would put my proposals in front of my State Senator ‘soon.’

I contacted my other State Senator to request a meeting as well.

Now the hard work begins. It’s time to begin a grassroots lobbying effort. I need to build a voice. The constituency needs to push their local government, so senators will join and co-sponsor my bills. I also need to, somehow, reach out to the judiciary committee.

How the hell am I going to do this? I’ve been asking myself that question for the past couple of days. I have researched grassroots lobbying efforts, which has given me ideas and a plan.

Right now, I am drafting emails, letters and a petition that can be circulated electronically and sent to local and state government officials. I am making a list of the local women’s groups that I plan to contact and ask for their support. Not only do I need individual voices, I need groups to join the push.

Please subscribe to this blog as a show of solidarity.

 

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