[National Council of Churches] The National Council of Churches has joined a growing list of religious and advocacy organizations calling for the tightening of laws to prevent Internet stalking.
One effort to accomplish that, the organizations said in a letter sent to U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) is the Internet Abuse Act of 2011, introduced by Blumenthal late last year.
Blumenthal said he introduced the legislation as a companion to a bill to renew the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) by preventing use of the Internet to stalk women as targets of sexual assault.
According to Blumenthal, the act is intended to “empower law enforcement and protect victims from criminals who use the internet to intimidate, threaten, or injure them.”
In the letter sent today to Blumenthal, advocacy organizations said there are many gaps in existing law.
“While cases where a criminal directly stalks, assaults, or abuses a victim can generally be reached under current law, it can be more difficult for prosecutors to make cases against perpetrators who indirectly abuse victims by using the Internet to induce third party individuals into engaging in such conduct.”
Current federal law criminalizes anonymous, harassing communications directed at a specific victim but does not currently cover harassing communications that may not be directly received by a victim. This Internet Abuse Act would fill this gap.
The bill also protects free speech by preventing prosecutions based solely on a communications that merely “annoy” a recipient.
Read the bill here.
Read the letter here.
Organizations writing to support the legislation include:
A CALL TO MEN
American Probation and Parole Association
Americans Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center
Asian and Pacific Islander Institute
Association of Jewish Family and Children’s Agencies
Association of Prosecuting Attorneys
Black Women’s Health Imperative
Break the Cycle
Casa de Esperanza
Church Women United
Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services
Disciples Justice Action Network
Disciples Women of the Christian Church
Faith Trust Institute
Fox Valley Voices of Men
Futures Without Violence
Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American
International Association of Forensic Nurses
Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault
Jewish Women International
National Domestic Violence Hotline
National Alliance to End Sexual Violence
National Center for Victims of Crime
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs
National Council of Jewish Women
National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges
National Council of the Churches of Christ
National Council of Women’s Organizations
National Legal Aid and Defender Association
National Network to End Domestic Violence
National Organization for Women
National Organization of Sisters of Color Ending Sexual Assault
National Resource Sharing Project
National Women’s Political Caucus
Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network
Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law
Service Women’s Action Network
Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S.
The Women of Color Network
United Church of Christ
United Methodist General Board of Church & Society
United Methodist Women
Whisper N Thunder, Inc.
Women’s Information Network
Women’s Law Project