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Domestic Violence; Front and Center in Annapolis

BALTIMORE (WJZ)-- Domestic violence is among the top public safety issues in Maryland.

Now there's a move to broaden the definition in order to stop abusers in the early stages of attack.

Political reporter Pat Warren explains what may soon qualify under the domestic violence law.

The victims may recognize those early stages, but right now the law does not.

Catalina Byrd says her abuser's behavior started with the phones.

"Take them with him when he left so there was no phone, computers were broken laptops were broken. Work product was lost," says Byrd, an abuse survivor. "He called my program directors at 3 and 4 in the morning accusing them of sleeping with me. There were a lot of things that happened prior to the actual physical abuse that took place."

But currently this kind of harassment falls outside the legal lines of domestic violence. Lawmakers Thursday are considering bringing it in.

Neshanna Turner's sister and 2-year-old niece were killed by the baby's father last year. The abuse started with telephone threats.

"And if Nashante were here she would probably say the same thing. Get help," says Neshanna Turner, the victim's sister.

The kind of help Delegate Angela Angel could have used herself against her estranged husband.

"And a judge looked at me and said this is no doubt harassment, it's criminal. However I cannot give you a protective order for it because there's no box for me to check," says Delegate Angel, a bill sponsor.

No box that includes harassment and intimidation as abuse.

"As it stands right now you cannot get a protective order until physical abuse has occurred," says Byrd.

Catalina was able to get that order after her abuser beat her.

Supporters are hoping to make a strong enough case to change the law.

The bill failed to get the support necessary last year because of existing laws against harassment.

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