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Maryland must stop setting rapists free

Think of five women you know personally. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least one of them has or will be raped in her lifetime.

In 2013, 173,610 people were raped or sexually assaulted in the U.S. That statistic fails to account for the staggering number of rapes and sexual assaults that go unreported each year. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, barely a third of rapes and sexual assaults are ever reported to police.

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As Baltimore's chief prosecutor, as a woman and most importantly as a mother of two young girls, it is my job to fight for justice on behalf of the survivors of sexual assault. But the hard core truth is that women who face their attackers in court are regularly denied justice because of an outdated Maryland statute that literally enables serial rapists to deny their crimes in the face of DNA evidence by merely claiming "consensual sex."

The tragedy lies in the fact that in this hypothetical situation — like so many real life rape cases in Maryland — you were not your attacker's first and only victim. However, in pretrial hearings, a judge decided that the jury was forbidden from hearing about your attacker's prior similar crimes.

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In federal court, rules 413 and 414 provide that the court may admit evidence of prior bad acts and prior accusations in sexual offense and child molestation cases if the probative value of the evidence outweighs the unfair prejudice to the defendant.

For the past two years, I've been in Annapolis demanding that Maryland's rules be brought in line with federal rules, just as several other states have already done to protect their most vulnerable populations from rape and molestation.

Despite the overwhelming need and precedence for this bill, our growing coalition of women, sexual assault survivors, legislators and my fellow state's attorneys have faced opposition from the House and Senate judiciary committees. We cannot let politics and red tape stand in the way of protecting our women and children.

That is why I am asking you to call your legislators and the members of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee to support the bi-partisan bill, S.B. 933, sponsored by Sen. Robert Cassilly, a Harford County Republican. This bill was carefully written to protect the rights of the accused. It requires the court to hold a closed hearing to review the prior bad acts of the defendant and to rule on their admissibility using clearly defined criteria when assessing the probative value versus the prejudicial effect of the evidence. This bill prevents defendants from hiding their predatory behavior from the jury and claiming for the second, fourth or sixth time that their violent attack was "consensual."

Communities need to know why these cases are so difficult to prosecute in the face of the "consensual sex" defenses, which is why I invite you to attend our Community Day in Court this Saturday, April 11th, in the Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr. Courthouse from 8:30 a.m. to noon. Through this event, we aim to bring awareness to the prevalence of sexual assault and rape in our communities in recognition of Sexual Assault Month.

Maryland has seen far too many rapists escape justice because of current law.

To the monsters who have escaped punishment for their crimes: Please know that this is both a threat and a promise to do everything within my power to get this legislation enacted. The next time you prey upon residents of our city, the Office of the State's Attorney for Baltimore City will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.

In the last 107 seconds, another person was sexually assaulted. We must act now.

Marilyn Mosby is Baltimore's state's attorney. Her email is mail@stattorney.org.

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