New legal protections for sexual assault victims in N.H. take effect this week

Concord Monitor

September 26, 2020

By Ethan DeWitt

New Hampshire’s protections for victims of domestic and sexual violence were widely expanded this week, after a broad package of reforms pushed by lawmakers and signed by Gov. Chris Sununu this summer took effect.

House Bill 705, known as the “Crime Victims’ Rights Enhancement Act of 2020,” ushered in significant changes. The statute of limitations for civil actions in sexual assault cases is now eliminated; the rights of victims during court proceedings have been increased; and those who commit sexual assaults against people with disabilities who are unable to consent – or 13- to-16-year-olds – may no longer use marriage as an excuse, among other changes.

The provisions took effect Sept. 18, 60 days after Sununu signed the bill in July

Advocates for domestic and sexual violence survivors applauded the developments – among the first major updates to the state’s statutes on victims’ rights in decades.

“Prior to this legislation, statutes in New Hampshire limited survivors of sexual assault to seek justice within an arbitrary timeframe,” said Pamela Keilig, public policy specialist at the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, in an emailed statement. “With the passage of this bill, that is no longer the case.”

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