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Equestrian proponent and current Ms. Oregon pushing for bill to update anti-stalking laws

2024 International Ms. Oregon, Amber Rosenberry, showed off her equestrian roots by revealing her boots during the organization’s event in 2023. (Photo Courtesy – Amber Rosenberry)

Portland, Ore. – Victims of stalking are pushing for a new Oregon bill that would revamp what they say is the State’s outdated anti-stalking laws. That includes Amber Rosenberry, the current International Ms. Oregon, who has also been a lifelong equestrian and horse advocate.

In a move to combat stalking, Rosenberry has taken the lead in supporting Oregon House Bill 4156. The bi-partisan legislation aims to provide stronger protections for victims of stalking and empower law enforcement agencies to address and prevent such crimes effectively.

Equestrian Media Group had also caught up just months ago with Rosenberry when she advocated for equestrian proponents calling for changes by the Chehalem Parks & Recreation District to protect riders on horseback using longtime horse trails.

Stalking, a form of harassment that often goes unnoticed or unaddressed, can have severe and lasting impacts on its victims. From incessant phone calls and messages to physical surveillance and intimidation, stalkers instill fear and anxiety, infringing upon the victim’s sense of safety and security.

According to proponents, stalking has often been difficult to prosecute, with existing laws falling short of adequately addressing the complexities of these cases.

Recognizing the urgent need for action, Ms. Oregon has made it her mission to champion the cause of anti-stalking legislation under Oregon House Bill 4156. She is drawing upon her own experiences involving an ex-boyfriend who was initially charged in 2019 with coercion, identity theft, and stalking.

“My family slept in shifts, we had someone awake at all times to keep watch and check every car on the road around me and getting off at the wrong exit and driving through parking lots to make sure I wasn’t being followed. I had a lot of concerns,” said Rosenberry in 2021 during an interview with KOIN News 6.

Equestrian Media Group spoke again with Rosenberry this week, who explained her ongoing efforts and calls to Oregonians to reach out to their legislators to express their support for these changes, believing that many in the community have a friend or family member who has been the victim of some degree at stalking.

At the heart of the proposed legislation are provisions to strengthen the legal framework surrounding stalking offenses. One key aspect is the expansion of what constitutes stalking behavior, encompassing not only physical acts but also cyberstalking and online harassment. By broadening the definition, the bill seeks to close existing loopholes and ensure that all forms of stalking are adequately addressed under the law.

Currently, the law makes stalking only a misdemeanor crime. In contrast, many laws typically support degrees that are both misdemeanor and felony level, depending on the severity and repeating nature of the crime. HB 4156 seeks to change the law to provide for both misdemeanor and felony-level charges.

According to Rosenberry, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men are victims of stalking.

Moreover, HB 4156 proposes enhancements to penalties for stalking offenses. By imposing stricter consequences, including longer prison sentences and fines, the legislation aims to deter potential perpetrators and provide a measure of justice for victims.

The bill would increase penalties for the crimes of stalking and violating a court’s stalking protective order in certain circumstances. Punishes by a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment, $250,000 fine, or both. If the bill was to pass, it would become effective July 1st.

Amber Rosenberry has been an equestrian and avid rider since a young age. (Photo Courtesy – Amber Rosenberry)

Ms. Oregon went on to outline how part of this process to bring change also involves changes in training for law enforcement to ensure that different investigators with both front-line and technical backgrounds are working cohesively and expediently in a way that recognizes the dangers that stalking victims face– especially after they come forward in court for restraining orders.

“So they will treat sending an email or text messages as stalking, but what I was finding is someone was hacking my accounts, and while that is a crime its not part of the stalking laws,” Rosenberry explained.

“It’d then mean it was a totally different group of detectives or investigators, folks who don’t understand the timeliness of protecting a victim. Any form of location tracking doesn’t count as stalking because that technology didn’t exist like it does today in the 90’s.”

Ms. Oregon’s advocacy efforts have not gone unnoticed, as she has garnered widespread support from lawmakers, advocacy groups, and the general public. Her impassioned speeches and tireless lobbying have helped propel HB 4156 forward, garnering bipartisan backing and momentum for its passage.

“It’s been extraordinary; before we even formally launched the bill, 33 representatives in the house had signaled their support for change,” said Rosenberry.

However, Rosenberry said that the road to enacting meaningful change has not been without its challenges.

Despite the bill’s merits, it faces opposition from some quarters, citing concerns about privacy rights and the potential for abuse of power. Opponents are allegedly having backdoor conversations with Oregon legislators handling the bill in committee despite public testimony already being held.

Rosenberry also explained that she hoped her efforts to use her current platform would increase citizen involvement in the legislative process– as well as bring further support for HB 4156

“If the positive that comes out of this is that more people became aware, paid more attention, and got involved in speaking out to their representatives, then I will feel very accomplished. I’ll feel even more accomplished if this bill goes through.”

As the debate over HB 4156 continues, one thing remains clear: Ms. Oregon’s unwavering commitment to changing Oregon’s anti-stalking laws has been instrumental in driving progress forward.

For information on Oregon’s current legislative session, you can visit https://www.oregonlegislature.gov/

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