By Plamedie Ifasso, The Daily Ardmoreite

A measure that will offer better protection for domestic violence survivors has passed through the state Senate while a bill clarifying the state’s definition of rape is on its way to the governor’s desk.

HB 1007 expands harassment in relation to the Domestic Abuse Reporting Act to include abusive and threatening messages from social media or other electronic communications, posting sensitive or embarrassing information without a person’s consent, impersonating another person and creating fake accounts to get private information with the intent to threaten or cause humiliation to someone.

“Sadly, domestic violence is all too common in our state, and those who prey on others will use whatever means they can to break down victims — be it physical, emotional or mental,” Senator Jessica Garvin, the principal Senate author of the bill, said in a press release. “While, for the most part, our law address the physical and emotional abuse victims face, this update is needed to stop the harassment and mental games being played on social media to further terrorize and hurt victims.”

The bill now heads to the House for approval.

Garvin also wrote House BIll 2666, which expands the definition of rape to include domestic violence victims. The state’s current definition of rape is a sexual act taking place with a male or female. HB 2666 clarifies the definition to include acts within or without the bonds of matrimony.

The Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault requested HB 2666.

“More than half of the female victims report being raped by an intimate partner according to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey,” OCADVISA legislative liasion, Mackenzie Masilon said in a news release. “We thank the bill authors for recognizing this and giving all survivors of sexual assault the ability to see justice.”

If signed by the governor, HB 2666 will go into November 1, 2021.

Kathy Manning, Executive Director of the Family Shelter of Southern Oklahoma, said it is important to have language like this included in a bill.

“I think it’s very important for abusers and perpetrators to be held accountable,” Manning said. “We see a wider variety of victims come in who have been assaulted by their intimate partner sexually. I think it’s important to include this language in these bills, so that everybody is being held accountable.”

Manning said even though the language in the bill could help victims, there still needs a continued legal support for victims and their safety. Domestic violence cases will still be difficult to prosecute, and it will still be hard for victims to move forward, Manning said.

“We need stronger laws that support victims of domestic violence and sexual assault,” Manning said. “We need that to happen. We need educational and prevention programs on the local, state and national levels. We need people to get behind these conversations. They are tough to talk about but we need to have them.”

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