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NHCADSV’s statement on Senate Finance Committee’s vote against a comprehensive, victim-centered settlement process for survivors of sexual abuse at YDC/Sununu Center
May 4, 2022
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Amanda Grady Sexton (603) 548-9377, firstname.lastname@example.org
Yesterday, members of the Senate Finance Committee voted to exclude numerous sexual assault victims from participating in a state settlement fund for individuals who were abused by employees of New Hampshire’s Youth Detention Center. The Coalition supports the creation of a truly victim-centered state settlement fund as an alternative to the civil court process and strongly urges the Senate to amend HB1677 on the Senate floor this Thursday, May 5. As written, the Coalition opposes HB1677, and we cannot recommend that victims use this process unless the bill is amended.
“The State of New Hampshire miserably failed to protect vulnerable children in its care at YDC and the Sununu Center. Children in New Hampshire’s youth detention centers suffered heartbreaking and unthinkable abuse for decades. The government employees who committed these terrible acts took advantage of the youth in their care, leveraging their position of authority to cover up the extent of their abuse,” said Amanda Grady Sexton, Director of Public Affairs for the Coalition.
“The state has an opportunity to set a powerful precedent through this settlement fund. Although there is no way to adequately compensate a victim for the life-long impacts of the sexual abuse and violence they endured while in the care of the state, the state can demonstrate what it means to hold institutions accountable and show unwavering support for child victims. The bill in its current form fails to do that,” Grady Sexton said.
Under the current version of HB1677, some groups of victims who experienced egregious acts of sexual violence are purposely prohibited from participating in the settlement process, including children who were forced to view pornographic materials, children who were subjected to acts of indecent exposure, and children who were filmed while being sexually abused. It is critical that the definition of abuse be expanded so that any child who was sexually abused at YDC is eligible to participate in this settlement process.
We also join Child USA in urging the legislature to revisit the caps on sexual abuse claims to ensure that the state is adequately compensating victims for the abuse they endured. Caps in a settlement process only benefit the state in these cases, and the caps for abuse claims in this bill shortchange victims. Under the current bill, those who suffered egregious abuse will be forced to choose between a low settlement offer or going to court.
The Coalition would like to express its gratitude to Senator Lou D’Allesandro and Senator Cindy Rosenwald who advocated strongly in support of amending this legislation.
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 12 member programs of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. Caring advocates are available 24/7 through the Statewide Domestic and Sexual Violence Helpline at 1-866-644-3574.
NHCADSV is a statewide network of 12 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 12 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.