We end our DVAM blog posts from New Hampshire’s highest elected officials with this post from Governor Maggie Hassan. Prevention Innovations Research Center is grateful for the support that has been demonstrated for domestic violence victims and their children, as well as for the New Hampshire programs and advocates who work tirelessly and passionately to provide life-changing and life-saving support and services.
By Governor Maggie Hassan
Domestic violence is an unthinkable crime, and it is one that tragically happens far too often in New Hampshire and across the country. Abuse, assault and violence can happen anywhere, and it can happen to anyone. Survivors of domestic violence are women and men of all races and colors. They are our bosses, co-workers, friends, neighbors and family members.
Speaking out about domestic violence and sexual assault is critical to preventing further abuse. Domestic Violence Awareness Month reminds us that by keeping these issues at the forefront of our collective conscience, we can help ensure that every victim’s needs and rights are identified and addressed, while continuing to make progress toward the ultimate goal of preventing these crimes in the first place.
Every day, survivors and their families speak up and tell their stories, inspiring us with their courage and serving as a beacon of hope for those who have yet to come forward. And their bravery has led to important improvements to our laws.
In our state, Becky Raines’ courage led to the passage of Joshua’s Law in memory of her son, which established the crime of domestic violence in New Hampshire – helping law enforcement and prosecutors better identify and stop repeat abusers, making it easier to keep guns out of the hands of abusers, and providing victims with access to support services and protections as soon as possible. And because of John Cantin’s tireless efforts, we passed Missy’s Law in honor of his daughter to make attempted strangulation, often a precursor to even greater violence in domestic abuse cases, a felony.
It is the bravery of these individuals that inspires me every day to work across the aisle to protect the rights of survivors and their families and to do everything in our power to help prevent assault and abuse from occurring. As Governor, I am focused on ensuring that our advocates, law enforcement, public safety officials and legal community have the tools they need to support survivors and to keep all Granite Staters safe from domestic violence.
We have worked across party lines in Concord to increase funding to support domestic violence prevention efforts. We also worked to establish a commission to study sexual abuse prevention education in elementary and secondary schools to help instill in our young people the importance of treating one another with dignity and respect.
To support survivors and victims of domestic violence, we passed a bipartisan measure requiring defendants to be in the courtroom for victim impact statements and implemented the Lethality Assessment Program, an innovative tool used by police officers to identify survivors at high risk of being seriously injured or killed and to connect them with a local crisis support center if necessary. This partnership between law enforcement and local support centers is helping save lives and preventing deaths from domestic violence, and we must expand it throughout the entire state to protect even more Granite Staters.
To address human trafficking, we passed laws to make it easier to convict violators, while also providing victims with the resources and protections they need to rebuild their lives. I also recently signed a bipartisan bill that makes it a Class B felony to purchase or agree to purchase human trafficking victims under the age of 18.
In order to continue the progress we have made here in New Hampshire, we must ensure that laws are in place to protect victims and survivors of domestic violence on a federal level as well. I was proud of Senator Jeanne Shaheen’s leadership in enacting the Sexual Assault Survivor’s Rights Act, which builds on the federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act and helps assure victims of sexual assault that the law is on their side, clearly articulating rights to address the unique challenges sexual assault survivors face.
While we have made progress in our efforts to support survivors and families of domestic violence and to prevent such heinous crimes from happening, we know that we must remain vigilant in our work so that no Granite Stater lives in fear or danger.
By continuing to talk about these issues and committing to not be a bystander, each of us can go a long way to ending domestic violence. Throughout Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the entire year, I encourage all Granite Staters to honor those we have lost to domestic violence, to commend survivors who have spoken out, and to recommit ourselves to working together every single day to continue building an even safer and stronger New Hampshire.
Margaret “Maggie” Hassan, a Democrat, is New Hampshire’s Governor. To read Maggie’s full bio, click here.