Rape, Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

Citizens Count Editor

The crimes of sexual assault and domestic violence are complex because victims may be reluctant to come forward and evidence degrades quickly.  There is also a great deal of debate over how to balance empowering survivors against the need to protect the rights of the accused.

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is a serious crime in New Hampshire. Penalties can range from a misdemeanor to an aggravated felony depending on the circumstances.

Read New Hampshire’s law against sexual assault

Find your local crisis center and get help with issues related to domestic violence or sexual assault

Statute of Limitations

  • The statute of limitations for prosecuting sexual assault committed on an adult in New Hampshire is six years.  That means prosecutors cannot charge a perpetrator six years or more after a sexual assault.
  • The statute of limitations is longer if the victim was a minor.  A survivor of child sexual abuse has until he or she turns forty years old to press charges against the perpetrator. 

Some states have eliminated any time limitations on prosecutions for sexual abuse.  Others eliminate the statute of limitations in cases where DNA evidence is matched to a perpetrator.

In 2018, the New Hampshire Legislature considered, but ultimately rejected, a bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse.

Sex offender registration

After serving his or her sentence, a sexual offender in New Hampshire must register with the police and inform them of where he or she is living.  Depending on the seriousness of the offense, a sexual offender may have to register twice or four times per year, for ten years to life.  The public can view the registry of sex offenders.

View the New Hampshire sex offender registry

In the past, some towns in New Hampshire have tried to restrict where registered sex offenders are allowed to live. State courts have struck those rules down.  The New Hampshire Legislature has considered — but so far rejected — bills that would either allow towns to pass residency restrictions on sex offenders or that would more formally ban them.

Sexual assault on campus

Federal law requires colleges to have a policy that addresses sexual assault on campus.  Despite this, victim advocates criticize many colleges for not going far enough to support victims.  In response, some states passed laws that require colleges to have stronger policies around sexual assault.  For example:

  • Illinois law requires colleges to use the “preponderance of the evidence” standard when deciding if a student committed sexual assault.  That means only 51% of the evidence needs to support a student’s guilt for administrators to conclude that the student committed a sexual assault.
  • Texas law provides immunity for other misconduct, such as underage drinking, to students who report a sexual assault. 
  • New York law requires colleges to adopt a stricter definition of consent. “Affirmative consent” means both parties must clearly indicate through words or actions that they are willing to engage in sexual activity. Silence or lack of resistance alone can’t be taken as consent.  

The University of New Hampshire has voluntarily adopted an “affirmative consent” policy, but previous attempts to require it statewide in New Hampshire have failed.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is emotional or physical abuse perpetrated by one intimate partner or family member that threatens another’s safety.

Read New Hampshire’s law against domestic violence 

Get help related to domestic violence

Protective orders

A victim of domestic violence may petition any court in or out of New Hampshire for a protective order (also known as a restraining order) that prohibits the abuser from making any contact with the victim, whether or not the abuser is convicted of a crime. 

Read New Hampshire’s law on protective orders

A judge may choose to include various details in the order, for example:

  • Requiring the abuser to surrender all firearms to the police
  • Requiring the abuser to continue making automobile, insurance, health care, utilities, rent, and/or mortgage payments for the victim
  • Requiring the abuser to complete counseling
  • Granting the victim exclusive custody of any pets
  • Denying the abuser any visitation with children in the family
  • Granting the victim exclusive custody of their place of residence

Violating a protective order is a misdemeanor.  If the perpetrator goes on to commit another act of abuse, he or she is automatically charged with a more serious crime.

Employment and housing protections

It is illegal in New Hampshire to discriminate against a person in housing or employment because he or she is a victim of domestic violence.

Learn more about New Hampshire’s employment discrimination laws

Nonconsensual dissemination of sexual images

In 2016 Gov. Maggie Hassan signed SB 465, which made nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images — sometimes called “revenge porn” — a felony.

Domestic Violence Grant Program

$43 of every $50 fee on marriage licenses goes to the Domestic Violence Grant Program, which provides grant funding to New Hampshire programs which assist victims of domestic violence, such as women’s shelters. 

Starting in January 2018, anyone convicted of stalking or sexual assault related to domestic violence must also pay a $50 fine towards the Domestic Violence Grant Program.

The state also receives federal funding for domestic violence programs.

Some advocates argue New Hampshire needs to provide more funding for domestic violence programs. 

Related Crimes

There are several other crimes in New Hampshire related to sexual assault and domestic violence:

PROS & CONS

"For" Position

By Citizens Count Editor

“New Hampshire should do more to prevent sexual and domestic violence.”

  • According to the data from law enforcement collected by the U.S. Department of Justice, New Hampshire had a reported rape rate of 44.8 per 100,000 in 2014.  This is much higher than any other state in New England.  The national average was also lower, at 36.6 per 100,000.  The higher incidence of reported rape in New Hampshire indicates a need for more programs to prevent sexual assault. 
  • According to the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, “Crisis centers were forced to turn away 3,724 adults and 1,204 children from emergency shelter" because of a lack of funding in the 2016-2017 budget cycle. This demonstrates the need for state funding for domestic violence shelters and programs to prevent domestic violence.  
  • According to a 2012 report from the Governor’s Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence, domestic violence is a causal factor in 9 out of 10 homicides in New Hampshire. In order to protect citizens from murder, New Hampshire needs to aggressively address domestic violence. 

"Against" Position

By Citizens Count Editor

“New Hampshire is doing enough to prevent sexual and domestic violence.”

  • While the U.S. Department of Justice shows a relatively high rate of reported rape in New Hampshire compared to other states, this may reflect that women in New Hampshire are more likely to report rape and law enforcement is more likely to take those reports seriously.  This theory is supported by some surveys that ask residents anonymously about sexual assaults.  For example, the High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, found that in 2015 that 6.3% of high schoolers in New Hampshire reported that they were physically forced to have sexual intercourse.  The national average was higher, at 6.7%. 
  • According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of women who report that they experience violence or stalking from an intimate partner is lower in New Hampshire than the rest of the United States.  From 2010-2012, 34.7% of women surveyed in New Hampshire reported violence or stalking by an intimate partner, compared to 37.3% of women nationally.  These statistics suggest that New Hampshire is handling domestic violence better than other states. 
  • In the most recent budget cycle (for the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years), the New Hampshire Legislature actually increased annual funding for domestic violence programs by over half a million.  New Hampshire should see the results of this funding before committing more dollars.

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

Killed in the House

Constitutional amendment establishing various rights for crime victims.

Interim Study

Requires a person convicted of nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images (sometimes called "revenge porn") to register as a sexual offender.

Killed in the House

Removes the exception for legally married spouses from certain sexual assault offenses.

Killed in the House

Expands the categories that the university and community college systems cannot use to discriminate or give preferential treatment, to include "age, color, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical disability, mental disability, marital status, familial status, or actual or perceived status as a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault."

Killed in the House

Increases a criminal charge from sexual assault to aggravated sexual assault if the assault takes place in a public bathroom, locker room, or similar location.

Killed in the House

Makes it a class A misdemeanor to falsely report a violation of a protective order.

Interim Study

Permits a parent or guardian to file a petition for a protective order on behalf of a minor.

Signed by Governor

Prohibits the court from granting permission for a marriage involving a minor if the other party, but for the marriage, would be guilty of sexual assault.

Signed by Governor

Expands the circumstances under which aggravated felonious sexual assault may occur when the victim is incarcerated in a correctional facility.

Signed by Governor

Establishes certain rights for sexual assault survivors, such as the right to be notified before a rape kit is destroyed.

Signed by Governor

Makes female genital mutilation a felony.

Killed in the House

Resolution urging Congress "to amend federal law on the issues of civil and criminal liability for providers and users of computer services carrying advertisements offering sex with sex trafficking victims."

Interim Study

Increases the penalty for a person who pays to engage in sexual contact with another person under the age of 18 who is a victim of human trafficking.

Tabled in the Senate

Establishes an Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) fund for the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which is currently funded with a federal grant. This bill then appropriates $500,000 over the next two years for the fund.

Tabled in the House

Requires corroboration for a victim's testimony in a sexual assault case if the defendant has no prior convictions for sexual assault.

Signed by Governor

Prohibits a defense in prostitution and human trafficking cases that relies on the defendant not knowing the individual's age or ability to consent. The Senate amended the bill to also add a $50 fine to certain criminal offenses involving domestic violence.

Interim Study

Removes the statute of limitations on sexual assault prosecutions if the victim was under age eighteen at the time of the assault. At the time of this bill's submission, an individual who was sexually assaulted as a minor must seek prosecution before turning forty years-old.

Killed in the Senate

Clarifies that the state must terminate parental rights for a person convicted of murder or manslaughter of his/her child or other family member; this includes parental rights for a child born after the parent's conviction.

Killed in the House

Removes the statute of limitations on sexual assault prosecutions if the victim was under age eighteen at the time of the assault. At the time of this bill's submission, an individual who was sexually assaulted as a minor must seek prosecution before turning forty years-old. The Senate amended the bill to instead establish a commission to study repealing the statute of limitations for sexual assault.

Signed by Governor

States, "Upon a showing, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the child's birth is the result of sexual assault of the birth mother, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that termination of the biological father's parent-child relationship with the child is in the best interest of the child."

Signed by Governor

Amends the definition of "online identifier" for the purpose of the sex offender registry. For example, this bill includes social media profile names in the definition of "online identifier."

Signed by Governor

Prohibits the admission of evidence of a victim's sexual history in any appeal, unless the New Hampshire Supreme Court rules it should be admitted. This bill also broadly defines sexual history as "any conduct or behavior relating to sexual activities of the victim," including living arrangements, use of contraceptives, lifestyle, etc. Before amendments, this bill simply stated that no evidence of a victim’s sexual history could be admitted for an appeal.

Tabled in the Senate

Modifies the grounds for divorce to include drug abuse, domestic violence, and child abuse. Before House amendments, this bill also allowed a right to trial by jury in divorce proceedings and limited the circumstances under which the parties could divorce based on "irreconcilable differences."

Killed in the Senate

Prohibits the admission of evidence of a victim's sexual history in any appeal, unless the New Hampshire Supreme Court rules it should be admitted. Before amendments, this bill added a blanket statement to New Hampshire’s criminal laws: "Prior consensual sexual activity between the victim of a crime and any person other than the defendant shall not be admitted into evidence in any prosecution under the criminal code, title LXII, in any court in this state.”

Killed in the House

Prohibits electronic transmission, electronic signature, or telephonic testimony for search warrants, arrest warrents, domestic violence orders, and other orders.

Killed in the House

Changes the jury instructions in sexual assault cases to add that "the defendant's testimony need not be corroborated." This bill also changes any reference to "victim" in the sexual assault laws to "complainant."

Signed by Governor

Makes it a class B felony for a person to pay for sex with a person under the age of 18. The bill also requires registration on the sex offender registry for human trafficking.

Signed by Governor

Requires DNA analysis for any person found not guilty by reason of insanity, found not competent to stand trial, and/or civilly committed to the secure psychiatric unit at the state prison after being charged with any felony offense, sexual offense, or offense against a child.

Tabled in the Senate

Grants crime victims the right to make confidential verbal and written statements for consideration by the parole board on a defendant's release.

Killed in the House

Requires an investigating agency to preserve biological material obtained in connection with the investigation of a crime for as long as the person convicted remains in custody. (As of the time of submission of this bill, material must only be preserved for five years.)

Signed by Governor

Establishes the crime of bestiality.

Interim Study

Specifies that the state must file a petition to terminate the parental rights of a parent convicted of murder or manslaughter of a child's sibling or other parent, even for cases in which the child is born after the parent's conviction.

Killed in the House

Requires a restraining order to contain language that restricts or prohibits contact between the parties.

Killed in the House

Authorizes municipalities to adopt bylaws establishing residency restrictions for sex offenders. This bill also allows a sex offender who was convicted after a guilty plea without a trial, prior to the establishment of the sex offender registry, to petition the court to have his or her name removed from the registry.

Killed in the House

Prohibits the retroactive application of the sex offender registry.

Tabled in the House

States that an offender may only remove his or her name from the public sex offender registry if the offender can prove that he or she poses no risk of reoffending or causing public harm.

Signed by Governor

Makes it a crime to share private sexual images of another person without his or her consent.

Killed in the House

Modifies the definition of stalking so that it no longer excludes "conduct that was necessary to accomplish a legitimate purpose independent of making contact with the targeted person."

Killed in the House

Requires the attorney general to perform an inventory of all untested rape kits.

Killed in the House

Reallocates a portion of penalty assessments from the Police Standards and Training Council to a compensation fund for victims of crimes against the person.

Tabled in the Senate

Prohibits municipalities from adopting an ordinance or bylaw that restricts the residence of sex offenders.

Killed in the Senate

Requires a performance audit of the sex offender treatment program including, among other elements, staff qualifications and analysis of any backlog of prisoners waiting to take the program.

Killed in the House

Forbids the Fish and Game Department from licensing guides who recently committed a crime while hunting, fishing, or trapping.

Killed in the House

Modifies the law against prostitution to protect victims of human trafficking.

Signed by Governor

Creates a process to allow a sex offender who was convicted prior to enactment of the sex offender registry to petition the court to have his or her name removed from the registry.

Killed in the House

Establishes a criminal penalty for falsifying information to obtain a restraining order or a protective order.

Signed by Governor

Requires detention until arraignment for persons arrested for violation of a domestic violence or stalking protective order.

Killed in the House

Takes the $38 from each marriage license that currently goes to the Domestic Violence Grant Program, and instead sends that $38 to the general fund

Signed by Governor

Increases maximum eligibility for compensation from the victims’ assistance fund.  The House amended the bill to also prohibit any person from collecting a debt from a claimant resulting from a crime-related expense during the pendency of the claim.

Signed by Governor

Increases marriage license fees by $5. The bill was amended to also establish a $50 fine for persons convicted of the crime of domestic violence.

Interim Study

Establishes a criminal penalty for a prisoner to use any Internet website to harass another person.

Killed in the House

Prohibits the use of sex offender registry information for the purpose of harassing a registered sexual offender, or any family member, employer, or landlord of such person

Signed by Governor

Increases the criminal penalty for purposely fornicating, exposing genitals, or performing any other act of gross lewdness while in the presence of a child less than 16 years of age from a misdemeanor to a class B felony.

Killed in the House

Repeals the registration fee for sexual offenders and offenders against children.

Killed in the House

Imposes a penalty assessment of $5 or 10%, whichever is greater, on all fines or penalties imposed by a court or the liquor commission for violations to the alcohol beverage laws. (The most common violation is for underage drinking, which carries a minimum fine of $300; the penalty assessment for that would then be $30). The penalty assessments would be divided equally among the Victims’ Assistance Fund, the Special Fund for Domestic Violence Programs, and the Alcohol Abuse Prevention and Treatment Fund.

Tabled in the House

Prohibits residency restrictions for sex offenders.

Killed in the House

Revises the classification as a tier III sex offender. Under current law, a tier III offender has committed more than 2 sexual offenses or offenses against a child. Under this bill, a tier III offender has committed a sexual offense or offense against a child after already being classified as a tier II sexual offender.

Should NH do more to prevent sexual and domestic violence?

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Issue Status

A legislative committee is recommending increasing penalties for buyers in human trafficking cases, raising it to a Class A felony with a potential sentence of up to 15 years. A bill to that effect will likely crop up in 2019. 

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