Several Critical Bills Impacting Victims of Crime Head to NH House Floor Tomorrow and Thursday Including the So-Called “Pedophile Protection Act” and Bill to Ban Child Marriage
Amanda Grady Sexton
Concord, NH – Tomorrow, Wednesday, March 8th and Thursday, March 9th, the NH House will vote on critical legislation that will significantly impact victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. The NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence and their 13 member programs encourage House members to support the Committee’s recommendations on the following bills:
HB 94, prohibiting certain defenses in prostitution and human trafficking cases. Majority Committee Report: Ought to Pass (Vote 17-4; RC), Minority Committee Report: Inexpedient to Legislate.
This bill codifies in our human trafficking statute that neither lack of knowledge of a victim's age, nor the consent of a minor, is a defense in human trafficking cases. This is consistent with existing NH statute, which states that minors cannot consent to sex.
HB 439, applying the rape shield law to all state courts. Committee Report: Ought to Pass with Amendment #2017-0319h (NT) (Vote 15-0; CC).
This bill was introduced in response to a recent NH Supreme Court case, in which the protections of our Rape Shield Law were jeopardized at the appeal level of the rape and murder victim, Lizzi Marriott's, killer. On his appeal, the NH Supreme Court ruled to unseal irrelevant and unsubstantiated claims about the victim's private sexual history that were not admitted at the trial court level. Amid outcry from the Marriott family and advocacy organizations across the country, the Court overturned its own ruling. This bill seeks to codify that Rape Shield protections apply throughout all court proceedings, including at the appellate level.
HB 478, prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity. Committee Report: Ought to Pass (Vote 15-2; RC).
This legislation prohibits discrimination based on gender identity, and protects transgender people from discrimination, including in accessing facilities that match the gender they live every day. NH is the only state in New England to exclude gender identity from it’s nondiscrimination laws. Transgender people experience alarmingly high rates of sexual assault, and forcing them to use facilities that don’t align with their gender makes them even more at-risk. If passed, HB 478 would increase public safety and minimize violence experienced by the transgender community,
HB 499, relative to the age at which certain persons may marry. Committee Report: Ought to Pass with Amendment #2017-0536h (NT) (Vote 11-0; CC).
This bill would require that both men and women must be 18 years old to enter into a valid contract for marriage. Under current NH law, the age for getting married is set at age 13 for girls and age 14 for boys, provided they get approval from a judge. Problematically, both of these standards are below age 16, the legal age of consent in NH. This effectively creates a “marriage loophole” that enables predators to reach girls with whom they could not otherwise access.
HB 106, relative to corroborating evidence in sexual assault prosecutions. Committee Report: Inexpedient to Legislate (Vote 18-0; CC).
This bill would create a higher burden of proof for victims of sexual assault compared to victims of any other crime in NH. If passed, this bill would require either DNA evidence or an eyewitness to the assault in cases where the perpetrator has no prior sexual assault conviction, allowing the most dangerous of sexual predators to continue to prey on those most vulnerable, including children. This bill operates under the false assumption that DNA evidence is readily available to corroborate these cases. Forensic nurses from the NH Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Program testified that the passage of time is detrimental to DNA retrieval and due to delayed reporting, for various reasons including fear and shame, oftentimes the window for evidence collection has closed by the time a victim is ready to come forward. If this bill is passed, more victims will never report, more cases will never go to trial, and more sex offenders will be free.
“HB 106, if passed, would build safeguards for rapists into NH statute, HB 106 would leave the most vulnerable among us, especially children, even more at risk. Essentially, this bill is a blueprint for how to get away with sexual assault,” said Amanda Grady Sexton, Public Affairs Director at NHCADSV. “We are pleased with the Committee’s unanimous vote against this bill and we strongly urge the full House to support the Committee’s recommendation of ITL. HB 106 would send an obvious message to victims of sexual assault that they are less credible than other victims and NH does not support them,” said Grady Sexton.
HB 283, defining bodily injury in the criminal code. Committee Report: Inexpedient to Legislate (Vote 14-1; CC).
This bill would have grave implications for the felony-level prosecution of child abuse cases, as anyone who “purposely or knowingly causes bodily injury to a child under the age of 13” can be charged with second degree assault under RSA 631:2. With this change, if the child was covered in bruises from a beating but there was no loss of or impairment to the health or function of their body, law enforcement could only charge the abuser with simple assault
HB 284, relative to jury instructions in sexual assault cases. Committee Report: Inexpedient to Legislate (Vote 19-1; RC).
This legislation would change the word "victim" to "complainant" only in sexual assault cases. Under this bill, you could be a “victim” of larceny, theft, or physical assault, but would be a "complainant" of sexual assault. This bill narrowly targets just victims of sexual assault and creates a different and dangerous standard for victims of sexual assault compared to victims of any other crime.
About the Coalition
NHCADSV is a statewide network of 13 independent member programs committed to ending sexual violence, domestic violence, and stalking, through direct services to victims, community education, and public policy advocacy. The NHCADSV and its 13 member programs do not discriminate based on gender, age, health status (including HIV-positive), physical, mental, or emotional ability, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, socio-economic status, race, national origin, immigration status, or religious or political affiliation. For more information visit www.nhcadsv.org.