Victims of rape and other sexual assaults in Maryland are no longer required to prove they physically resisted their assailants under a new law.
Senate Bill 0217 changes the state’s outdated legal definition of rape, clarifying that a victim doesn’t need to fight the perpetrator to establish that a sexual crime was committed.
“This is a sea change for sexual assault survivors in Maryland,” said Lisae C. Jordan,executive director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
“It is a fundamental improvement in how the law responds and respects women who were assaulted. In essence, it means that no means no.”
Maryland’s current sexual assault statutes had typically required prosecutors to establish that a rapist used “force” or “threat of force,” Jordan explained. In many cases, she said, police and prosecutors relied on evidence that a victim had fought back in order to prove that force was used.
She said law was confusing to victims who were taught about consent in high school and college, and told that no means no.
“This brings our law in line with women’s expectations, with society’s expectations and the way we should treat everyone regarding sexual violence,” she said.
Kelley, the bill’s co-sponsor, told CNN that Maryland needed to make the change to bring the state up to date with the rest of the country. She noted that “survivors increase their chances of being maimed or killed if trying to physically resist the rape.”