TRENTON, N.J. – The Assembly on Thursday advanced a bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Michele Matsikoudis, allowing victims of stalking or cyber-harassment to get protective orders when the offender is a stranger. The assemblywoman says it rightly expands the scope of victims who can receive protective orders without a criminal conviction to include those who do not have a spousal, household or dating relationship with their stalker.
“In today’s digital world, stalkers can threaten and harass strangers for years and years without ever coming into physical contact with them. These victims have little protection under current law, but that will hopefully soon change,” Matsikoudis (R-Union) said. “Victims who have been targeted by strangers, neighbors and acquaintances should be able to get a protective order and experience the peace of mind that provides.”
In February, Michele Albano testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that her daughter received threatening text messages from a man only blocks away in Hoboken, but because the pair did not have a relationship the family wasn’t able to get a restraining order. Her daughter had to live in fear for eight months before a judge issued a protective stay-away order.
Matsikoudis’ bill (A2770/S1517) would allow a judge to issue a protective order when domestic violence statutes are inapplicable due to a lack of a prior or existing relationship. Additionally, parents may act on behalf of their children who are under 18 or who have a developmental disability.
“Just because the victim doesn’t personally know the offender, doesn’t mean the stranger will not act on threats. No one should have to live in constant fear,” Matsikoudis said. “This law will put barriers in place that will serve to prevent further harm and harassment.”