This is not the first time the Maryland legislature has neglected to expand domestic violence laws. You might remember Amy Castillo, the Montgomery County woman who, in the middle of a custody dispute with her estranged husband, was denied a protective order due to the rigid standard of proof of domestic abuse. At a particularly volatile moment in their failed relationship, Ms. Castillo's husband took their three children to a hotel in Baltimore and drowned them. It was a sickening headline across the country, and it cried out for some measure to be taken to try to stop it from ever happening again. But even the wrenching testimony of Amy Castillo would not convince the legislature that changes to Maryland's domestic violence laws are overdue.
It seems we have a high standard of proof in Maryland for what constitutes domestic violence. It's a high standard that nevertheless puts us in low company: the dwindling number of states that don't recognize a wrecked TV or a destroyed room as an indicator of escalating abuse — a big hint that physical harm could be next. And now, with the legislative session just ended, those who represent the people of Maryland have declined to do anything about it.
By Maryland's narrow definition of abuse, you may not. It virtually all cases, it will take more than destroyed property, incessant and harassing text messages, or even your abuser coming to your home uninvited to convince a judge that you deserve the protection of the state.
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What would you do if your spouse punched out your television? What if he (or she) threw a table across the room and it smashed to pieces against the wall in a fit of rage? Even if you weren't touched during this episode of violence and intimidation, aren't you a victim of it? Do you deserve protection?