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Coalition applauds House, Urges Senate to fully close loopholes in sexual assault law
Contact: Amanda Grady Sexton
March 11, 2020
Today the House of Representatives unanimously passed HB1240, a bill that closes glaring loopholes in New Hampshire’s sexual assault statutes that were brought to light as a result of the case against Howie Leung, a teacher at Concord High School and a camp counselor in Newton MA. Many citizens in Concord were shocked to learn that adults working at schools and summer camps in NH are legally permitted to have sexual contact with teens over the age of 16. Outcry from these citizens led to the introduction of HB1240 in the House, and SB468 and SB572 in the Senate. The Senate bills will be debated by the full Senate today or tomorrow.
The passage of HB1240 today recognizes that teens cannot freely give consent to sexual contact with those in a position of authority over them because of the imbalance of power.
We applaud the House of Representatives for passing this comprehensive bill. In terms of next steps, HB1240 will head to the Senate Judiciary committee for a hearing and vote.
Later today or tomorrow the Senate will debate two bills that also seek to address the loopholes that exist in New Hampshire’s current law. The Coalition urges the State Senate to pass a bill that contains the same level of protections that exist in the House version of the bill.
The bill that is currently favored to pass the Senate, SB572, only provides protections to children within educational institutions who are exploited by staff at schools. Although this bill aims to close the so-called “Howie Leung Loophole,” it wouldn’t criminalize acts by adult camp counselors, unpaid staff, volunteers, or contractors working at schools. As we know, Howie Leung is alleged to have committed crimes when acting as a camp counselor, and this behavior would not be criminalized under this bill.
In addition, if the Senate passes this bill without amending it to apply to all adults acting in position of authority over teens, it will create a scenario where adults who are gymnastics teachers, camp counselors, scout leaders, and faith leaders are legally permitted to have sexual contact or penetration with teens over the age of 16.
“Trusted adults in New Hampshire, regardless of their employment status or job description, must be held accountable and should not be allowed to manipulate their position of authority over the youth in their care. HB1240 will ensure that our youth are better protected, and that prosecutors can do their job when a teen is taken advantage of by a person in a position of trust and authority over them. We urge the Senate to adopt the same level of protection in their bills that are headed to the Senate Floor. Youth in New Hampshire have a right to learn and develop new skills in safe learning and recreational environments and should not have to worry about being exploited by trusted adults charged with their care. No teenager should ever have to worry about how to handle sexual advances from the very people who are charged with protecting or educating them,” said Amanda Grady Sexton, Public Affairs Director for the Coalition.
We encourage anyone who has been sexually or physically abused, no matter when the abuse occurred, to come forward to seek confidential and compassionate support or information through one of the 13 member programs of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. Caring advocates are available 24/7 at the Coalition’s 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.
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