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Rape, Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

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Citizens Count Editor
Summary

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:

Author:
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. 
Author:
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.

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