Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed a bill into law on Tuesday that makes it easier to prosecute rape cases. Advocates say the bill, known as “no means no,” will change the way the state looks at rape, the Washington Post reports.
Hogan was joined by House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) when signing the legislation.
Under the new law, victims do not need evidence of physical resistance to prove that they have been sexually assaulted.
“The bill on physical resistance is a fundamental change in the way we look at rape and respond to rape,” said Lisae C. Jordan, Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s executive director.
Gov. Hogan also signed into law bills: that require the retention of sexual-assault evidence kits for a minimum of 20 years, expand the definition of rape to match the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, and add sex trafficking to the definition of sexual abuse.
“Making Maryland safer begins with making sure that we have a criminal justice system that holds offenders accountable for their actions and the harm they cause, while also supporting victims and the community in the process of healing,” Gov. Hogan said in a statement.
Prior to the new law, sex crime investigators in some jurisdictions labeled some rape cases as “unfounded” because the victim had no proof of physical resistance.
Just days before the signing of the new bill, the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault completed its three-year audit of sexual assault cases in Baltimore County that never moved forward. Out of the 124 cases reviewed, 42 were discharged due to lack of evidence of physical resistance.
“What is so important about this is that it conforms our law to what we are teaching our students in high school and college. You have to have consent and ‘no means no,'” said Jordan.