Missouri House bill expands definition of stalking to include technology and social media

Published: Apr. 15, 2021 at 5:03 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - A Missouri House Bill aims to change the definition of stalking and offer more protection to victims.

Stalking can happen in a variety of ways, including on social media or with cell phones.

Representative Lane Roberts says he proposed House Bill 292 so the legislature could keep up with the technological advances.

“A lot of people who engage in those stalking activities have learned to circumvent that law by using technology,” Rep. Roberts says.

The bill changes the definition of the “course of conduct” for stalking. This means that “two or more acts including, but not limited to, acts in which the stalker directly, indirectly, or through a third party follows, monitors, observes, surveils, threatens, or communicates to or about a person by any action, method, or device.”

“This has become far more prevalent than anybody realizes,” Rep. Roberts says. “Even the use of Facebook can be detrimental and emotionally damaging to victims.”

The Victim Center’s executive director, Brandi Bartel, says survivors want to be able to live their lives without looking over their shoulder. Bartel says technology and social media can make that harder to do so.

“Offenders of stalking are going to engage in any form of communication and any type of communication that they can to harass and intimidate or basically stalk their victim,” Bartel says.

Bartel says this makes it difficult for victims to be able to live their lives freely.

“If you shut down one account of a stalker, it’s really easy for them to create another account and use a different name,” Bartel says. “It’s really hard for victims because it doesn’t ever feel like something they have control over.”

Bartel says she’s glad lawmakers are stepping up to help keep up with technology and societal norms in the hopes it will offer victims more peace of mind.

“It turns somebody’s life upside down and so these are very terrifying circumstances for victims and they just want to live their normal life,” Bartel says.

The bill is now in the Senate. If it passes, it will come back to the House for a final reading.

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