Governor Walker signs cyberstalking bill into law, victim says: "It gives me peace of mind"

MADISON (WITI) -- Governor Scott Walker on Wednesday, April 8th signed a bill that will allow state judges to issue restraining orders against anyone who uses technology to harass a Wisconsin resident from anywhere in the country.

"I applaud the legislators and the governor for closing the gap," Melissa Torres, who has been a target of cyberbullying said.

Current state law allows Wisconsin judges to issue restraining orders only against harassers and stalkers who reside within the state.

The bill's authors, Sen. Van Wangaard, a Republican from Racine, and Rep. Amy Loudenback, a Republican from Clinton, issued a statement saying the law would provide Wisconsin residents additional protection against cyberbullying and harassment.

Carmen Pitre with the Sojourner Family Peace Center says imagine you meet and date someone in Chicago while living there and it doesn't work out.

"Maybe I went to college in Chicago but I live in Manitowoc. I dated someone. I break up. Moving back to Manitowoc or to Milwaukee and that person starts to stalk me and threaten me via email or Facebook -- which causes the same fear in me and the same sense of control. In the past, the courts did not have jurisdiction over that and could not grant the restraining order," Pitre said.

During a hearing on the bill, Melissa Torres, who has been a target of cyberbullying testified before lawmakers.

"Malicious, mean things and then there would be constant text messaging or phone calls," Torres said.

Torres says the ability to obtain a restraining order against a harasser from out-of-state gives victims some control with some backup from the courts.

"It does. It gives me peace of mind that I know that if I needed it, it's there and it's readily available to me -- to say, 'you know what? Enough is enough,'" Torres said.

"It allows the law enforcement agencies who are trying to hold that person accountable in those jurisdictions -- it gives them a resource and a tool," Pitre said.

The new law means victims will no longer need to travel to court in the state where the harasser lives in order to get some relief.