ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — In today’s digital age, the risk of online harassment has increased over the years, even if there’s no relationship between both parties. Restraining orders for victims can be tricky to get, but new legislation could change that. 

“In one case someone was followed cross country after they met up online and someone just showed up across the country, really really weird stuff, and really really terrifying stuff and menacing stuff,” said Senator Andrew Gounardes.

He says, in order to get an order of protection against someone outside of a direct personal connection, the process can take far too long. Additionally, he says this method hasn’t caught up to the realities of the 21st century. 

His proposed Anti-Stalking Act would allow victims of online harassment to file a restraining order against their harasser, without requiring proof of an intimate relationship with the accused. 

However, they would need to show proof of legitimate harassment that took place. 

“This person has done X to me, or has made this comment or showed up at my place of employment, sent me an unsolicited message that I find to be very harassing or menacing some indicia of behavior that would not be considered acceptable or reasonable or normal and then on that basis the court could use its existing statutory authority to issue an order of protection for that individual,” he said.

According to a 2021 Pew Research study, 41 percent of Americans have experienced some form of online harassment with sexual harassment and stalking becoming more common. With online dating sites, 37% of people experienced continued contact from after saying they were not interested.35% were sent a sexually explicit message or image they didn’t ask for. 28% were called an offensive name. And 9% were threatened with physical harm

Assemblywoman, Nathalia Fernandez says this bill would expand the jurisdiction of family court to allow victims to get an order of protection without having to go through a police investigation or an arraignment process. In a statement she said: 

“We’re nearly a quarter of the way through the 21st century, but our anti-harassment protections are stuck in the past… In a world in which so many of us form connections online, victims of digital harassment are left vulnerable and without an avenue for protection. We’re working to make that possible. ”

The bill was just introduced this week, and lawmakers hope to get it passed this session.