By Rachel Yehoda, Program Coordinator (Prevention & Education)
As they currently stand, Maryland’s outdated and archaic sexual assault statutes are often interpreted to require prosecutors to prove that a rapist used “force” or “threat of force” in order to get a conviction. We are long-past overdue to change these laws. The modernization of Maryland’s rape law has been reintroduced in Maryland’s 2017 legislative session, which is currently underway. The Senate version of this bill, SB217, and the House version of this bill, HB429, clarify that rape victims are never required to physically resist sexual assault. Passing this legislation is crucial in order to promote justice for survivors of sexual violence in the state of Maryland.
These bills will bring Maryland’s sexual assault statutes out of the dark ages. Delegate Kathleen Dumais (D-Montgomery), Vice-Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and Senator Dolores Kelley (D-Baltimore County), Vice-Chair of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, have reintroduced these bills in the legislative session this year. In 2005, Del. Dumais introduced a bill similar to the current one, but it did not move forward in committee.¹ This year, the hearing for the Senate version of this bill (SB217) is scheduled for Wednesday, February 8, 2017 and the hearing for the House version of this bill (HB429) will take place Tuesday, February 21, 2017.
The problematic nature of Maryland’s current sexual assault statutes has been highlighted in discussions of the disturbingly high number of unfounded rape cases in the state. As many outlets including Buzzfeed have reported, some members of Maryland law enforcement have declined to move forward with sexual assault investigations due to confusion about Maryland’s statutes, labeling these cases “unfounded” instead. This lack of action on behalf of law enforcement is an impediment for victims seeking justice after an assault. In light of these recent events, it is especially important that our law is finally modernized this year.
Here at MCASA, we fight every day for survivors of sexual violence in the state of Maryland. Legislation like SB217 and HB429 is critical to supporting survivors and holding offenders accountable. If you are interested in learning more about this bill, please read MCASA’s press release on Modernizing Maryland’s Rape Law.
¹ Campbell A., and K. Baker. “Maryland Lawmaker Seek to Change Rape Law After Buzzfeed News Report.” Buzzfeed News. September 22, 2016. https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexcampbell/maryland-lawmaker-seeks-change-to-rape-law-after-buzzfeed-ne?utm_term=.ggZqaBPol#.abL6WOPEm.