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While the bill has broad support, some members of the victim advocacy community – including the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence – said they can’t fully endorse the proposal. The coalition supports the regulation and oversight of visitation centers but it opposes the use of state tax dollars to fund their expansion in New Hampshire.
“We feel that the establishment of 10 brick-and-mortar visitation centers across the state sends the wrong message to courts: that the rights of a violent parent supersede a child’s physical and emotional right to safety,” said Amanda Grady Sexton, the coalition’s public affairs director.
Instead, she said, the coalition believes in strengthening the state’s existing child protection laws to ensure mechanisms are in place so that an abusive parent is held accountable prior to being granted visitation or custody rights.
“Officer Baxter’s example of a man coming to a visitation center with a loaded gun is exactly why I oppose this bill,” said Massachusetts attorney Karen McCall, who worked in legal services in New Hampshire and, at one time, the coalition. “Expanding supervised visitation centers is a green light to the judicial system to feel like they have a safe place to send people who have no business being around their children.”