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Advocates for survivors of domestic violence and abuse are applauding the New Hampshire Supreme Court after a unanimous decision Thursday ceded no ground to a man accused of targeting a woman with violent and sexual images and messages online.
Lyn Schollett, executive director of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic Sexual Violence, which filed an amicus brief in the case, said she was glad to see the court decide this case on the merits.
“I think the most important message from this opinion is to offenders, which is that you cannot terrorize people and simply call it free speech,” she said.
Schollett said the stalking in this case was perpetrated entirely online, but it had the same effect as in-person stalking, which is to subject a victim to an ongoing state of terror.
“The power of stalking is that it keeps the victim in a perpetual state of fear and hypervigilance, and the Supreme Court recognized the necessity of protecting victims from further abuse in this case by deciding that it’s a compelling state interest,” she said.
“We hope that this case means that in future cases the court will look carefully at online stalking and recognize the very real threat that it is,” she added.
June 30, 2023
In a statement, Lyn Schollett, executive director of the Coalition, said images of a person being violently attacked do not deserve legal protection.
"The New Hampshire Supreme Court made a strong statement today by holding that protecting victims from abuse is a compelling state interest. We couldn’t agree more," Schollett said.
June 29, 2023
The state looks to the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence to assist victims, from running a 24-hour crisis line to providing emergency shelter. It’s also a partner in helping survivors of abuse avoid homelessness.
Housing can be especially hard to find for survivors whose abuser has limited their access to money for rent or caused them to have poor credit scores.
The Executive Council approved a request from the Department of Health and Human Services Wednesday to continue a project that helps survivors not only find housing and pay rent but also learn to manage money.
"That’s a significant need because the vast majority of survivors who come to the Coalition for help have been a victim of economic abuse in addition to physical or sexual abuse," said Rachel Duffy, housing and economic justice manager for the Coalition.
"They have little experience with finances because their abusers denied them access to bank accounts," she said. "And, they have low credit scores because their abusers put their names on credit cards and failed to pay them. Or, abusers default on utility bills that bear both their names."
June 19, 2023
New Hampshire Bulletin
The deaths of three women and a toddler in different parts of the state this month followed a pattern of domestic abuse that’s often predictable and avoidable.
All three women were domestic violence victims who spent the last moments of their lives with their abusers, according to police and court records.
In each case, there was evidence of abuse and fleeting opportunities to start over.
“There have been consistent reports about the severity of abuse and the types of abuse that these victims and their children are experiencing,” said Amanda Grady Sexton, director of public affairs for the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. “The reports are not further increasing, but the lethality is.”
June 17, 2023
The court documents had interviews with neighbors of the victim who said they heard yelling and banging. Domestic violence survivor advocates said that whenever a case like this comes up, anyone can help.
"If you are a neighbor and suspect someone is in an abusive relationship or there's something happening that draws concern, anyone can contact our crisis centers or call our statewide helpline," said Pamela Keilig, of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.
June 16, 2023
Amanda Grady Sexton, director of public affairs for the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, said specific types of domestic violence are strong indicators or future lethal events.
“What we saw in the criminal history of Mr. Bell was exactly the red flags that we know, which lead to and predict a future homicide,” she said. “The act of strangulation is a very strong indicator of lethality as well as the fact that he illegally possessed a firearm.”
Much of the coalition’s efforts take a holistic approach to support social services for families and larger systems that hold offenders accountable.
June 10, 2023
Authorities found 35-year-old Nicole Hughes and her 1-year-old daughter, Ariella Bell, dead in their home on Saturday. Each had suffered multiple gunshot wounds. Hours later, 42-year-old Jamie Bell, the man suspected of killing his partner and their daughter, was found dead by apparent suicide on the bank of the Merrimack River.
Amanda Grady Sexton, public affairs director for the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence, said this tragic case reflects known patterns of abuse.
“Bell’s criminal history demonstrates how domestic violence escalates over time,” she said. “His illegal use of firearms and his use of strangulation against an intimate partner were strong warning signs that he was a serious risk to those in his household.”
Sexton said domestic violence homicides are preventable, avoidable, and predictable. So people shouldn’t be shy about reaching out to the statewide 24/7 helpline, 1-866-644-3574, if something about a relationship looks or feels unsafe.
Whenever high-profile cases like the one in Franklin happen, Sexton said the hotline sees a dramatic increase in calls, from people who are in unhealthy relationships and from their friends, family members, and other concerned parties. Callers don’t need to be in crisis to call and speak with an advocate, she noted.
June 7, 2023
The N.H. Senate on Thursday passed a bill by Winchester Rep. Jennifer Rhodes to increase the penalty for repeat “peeping Tom” crimes and similar violations.
At a March 28 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the bill, 53 people signed up in support of the legislation, and nobody was against it.
Pamela Keilig, a public policy specialist at the N.H. Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, told the panel the bill would bring the privacy law in line with other statutes, such as the indecent exposure law, that have tougher penalties for repeat violations.
June 5, 2023
U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire, has asked the Department of Defense to look into allegations of sexual assault at the New Hampshire National Guard. Her request came after News 9 spoke with soldiers who said they were sexually assaulted while serving.
"There certainly can be added barriers to victims coming forward inside of institutions," said Lyn Schollett, executive director of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.
"However, in this set of circumstances, while it is never incumbent of any survivor to speak out, when they do, like these soldiers did, they can have enormous influence," she said. "They are giving other survivors hope, and they are giving other survivors hope that systems can change and be more responsive in the future".
April 19, 2023
Federal law enforcement officers have discovered illicit massage parlors in every New Hampshire county, with victims of human trafficking being forced to have sex with customers. The National Human Trafficking Hotline identified 75 victims in New Hampshire in 2021, most involving sex in illicit massage parlors and spas.
Law enforcement officers say the state’s lax licensing laws are helping those parlors stay in business. Local officials, advocates who work with assault victims, and the head of the state’s licensing agency agree.
Since the New Hampshire Human Trafficking Collaborative Task Force formed in 2016, it has identified 50 illicit massage businesses in the state, said Director Meg Chant, who is also the human trafficking project specialist at the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.
“We’re not looking at this as just a law enforcement situation,” Chant said. “Generally, law enforcement can’t do it on their own. Victim services can’t do it on their own. And it really is just about trying to reach those victims. Yes, if we can prosecute the people who are doing it, the traffickers, that’s great. But we’re really looking at making the victim safe.”
April 3, 2023
New Hampshire Bulletin