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The report today issued by St. Paul’s regarding the sexual abuse of countless victims highlights the urgent need to reform New Hampshire’s civil and criminal statutes of limitations for sexual assault victims. Such reform will give victims the opportunity to seek justice and hold their abusers accountable for their crimes. Today in New Hampshire, those who sexually abuse children may go unpunished because of outdated and ineffective laws that limit the timeframe in which a victim can access the courts – child victims of sexual abuse only have until their 30th birthday to file a civil suit and until their 40th birthday to press criminal charges. The experience of sexual assault, which is often at the hands of a trusted adult, can result in victims feeling confused, scared, shamed and humiliated, which is why it is normal for many sexual assault victims to wait years and even decades before reporting sexual abuse. Law enforcement and the courts must be given the ability to take action when victims are ready. This is critical to ensuring justice for victims as well as the protection of our entire community.
Extensive research shows the devastating impacts that child abuse has on victims. Long-term impacts include depression, anxiety, attempted suicide, chronic mental and physical health problems, increased risk of incarceration, substance abuse, and alcoholism. Due to the intense trauma, it is not uncommon for victims to struggle for decades before understanding that these issues are the direct result of the abuse they experienced as children.
Sexual abuse is all too common and results in dangerous consequences for victims, their families, and the greater community. The first step towards preventing these crimes is to remove the civil and criminal statute of limitations in sexual assault and abuse cases. It is essential to establish laws that acknowledge the true nature of these crimes and the incredible impact they have on victims. Creating an environment where victims are encouraged to come forward at any point will allow us to hold sexual predators accountable and create safer homes, schools, and communities.
NHCADSV will continue to work with victims and the legislature to extend or eliminate all statutes of limitations for both adult and child victims of sexual abuse to enable them to heal and seek justice.
Crisis center advocates across NH are available 24/7 to support victims and their loved ones. To speak to a confidential advocate, please call the statewide hotline at 1-800-277-5570.
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.