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August 12. 2014 9:45PM

New victim protections passed by Legislature celebrated

CONCORD — Lawmakers approved a series of bills this session that will make New Hampshire communities and families safer and will cement the state’s status as a leader in victim protections, according to Gov. Maggie Hassan.

Speaking at a ceremony commemorating the passage of what supporters say are six landmark bills to protect victims of sexual and domestic violence, Hassan said all six bills are “common sense measures with bi-partisan support that help improve the safety for our communities and our families.”

The new laws are intended to better protect victims of domestic violence, human trafficking, rape and sexual abuse.

The governor noted the courage and work of Becky Ranes, the mother of 9-year-old Joshua Savyon, in passing a law establishing the crime of domestic violence.

Joshua Savyon was shot and killed by his father, Muni Savyon, who then turned the gun on himself at a Manchester visitation center a year ago. Muni Savyon was under a protective order for threatening his family.

Joshua’s Law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, takes related assault charges and reorganizes them under the crime of “domestic violence”.

“As Joshua’s mother, it was important to me to support this legislation in his memory,” Ranes said. “I wanted to do something that would help lessen the chance of losing another child in New Hampshire to domestic violence. Joshua’s Law will do just that.”

The bill’s prime sponsor, Sen. Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, said the new law will allow prosecutors, law enforcement and community agencies to better target repeat abusers and more quickly provide support for victims.

“(They) will have better tools to protect all New Hampshire families and their children,” Soucy said.

Under another law, it would be easier for women impregnated during a rape who decide to have the child, to terminate the parental rights of the rapist.

Under current New Hampshire law, a court may terminate parental rights, but only if the person is convicted of rape or pleads guilty to the charge.

The bill’s prime sponsor, Sen. Bette Lasky, D-Nashua, said current law holds rape victims to a higher standard for terminating parental rights.

She said the new law means women will not have to live in fear of being repeatedly traumatized by their rapist.

Rape is the most underreported violent crime in the United States, and in New Hampshire, only 3 percent of rapes ever result in a conviction, she said.

Lasky noted the bill had the backing of such diverse groups as NARAL and Cornerstone Action, the Catholic Church and the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as law enforcement and victim’s groups.

The law also goes into effect Jan. 1.

A bill increasing penalties for human trafficking and making it easier to convict violators was passed unanimously by both the House and Senate this year.

New Hampshire was one of the first states to make human trafficking illegal.

Senate Bill 317 also provides victims with resources and protections they need to rebuild their lives said Amanda Grady Sexton, NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Abuse public policy director.

“It creates a civil right of action for trafficking victims and establishes mechanisms that will help them rebuild their lives after their trauma.”

The bill goes into effect Oct. 23.

The ceremony drew several dozen lawmakers, law enforcement officials, advocates and victims. The event also commemorated other bills:

Senate Bill 348, which establishes a commission to study sexual abuse prevention education in elementary and secondary schools;

House Bill 1410, which adds household and domesticated animals to the domestic violence protection statute;

And Senate Bill 390, which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees who are victims of domestic violence.

House Minority Leader Gene Chandler, R-Bartlett, who was the lead House sponsor on several of the bills, said the bills will ensure New Hampshire remains in the forefront on domestic violence legislation.

grayno@unionleader.com


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