Governor Maggie Hassan Continues Her Support of Survivors this DVAM

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

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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.


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Margaret “Maggie” Hassan, a Democrat, is New Hampshire’s Governor. To read Maggie’s full bio, click here.

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Uniting Hands and PAWs to End Domestic Violence

By Senator Kelly Ayotte

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As we mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month this October, I’ve had several opportunities to think about how we can all do better to support survivors of domestic and sexual violence and prevent these crimes from happening in the first place. I was glad to participate in the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence’s annual Hall of Fame Luncheon at the end of September. Every year, they honor New Hampshire residents who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in order to provide better support for survivors and work toward ending these horrific crimes. I’m incredibly grateful for their work, and for the work of UNH’s Prevention Innovations Research Center (PIRC) in preventing sexual and domestic violence on campus.

Since my time as a prosecutor and New Hampshire’s first female attorney general, I have met with stakeholders at all levels, and over the years the conversation surrounding domestic and sexual violence has evolved to grasp the fact that domestic violence is about power, and it’s a way for abusers to assert control.

There has been a collective movement to look toward more wide-ranging solutions to tackle the root causes of violence against women.

In the Senate, I introduced legislation that speaks to a certain aspect of domestic violence that has consistently been an issue, but never previously dealt with at the federal level. I worked across the aisle with Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) on the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act (S. 1559) to address the existence of pets in situations of domestic violence, and how the bond between a victim and pet is often exploited by abusers in order to gain leverage in an already-abusive relationship.

In New Hampshire and across the country, crisis centers encounter tragic cases where abusers will manipulate their victims by threatening to harm, or intentionally inflicting pain on their victims’ pets.

By taking advantage of an individual’s love for their pet, abusers control victims by forcing them to choose either to leave their pets behind or stay in a dangerous situation that puts their safety in jeopardy.

Further, while a 2014 study found that almost 3/4 of pet-owning women seeking shelter at crisis centers reported that their abuser threatened, harmed or killed family pets, only a small number of domestic violence shelters permit pets.

The PAWS Act would take a number of steps to better empower women to leave abusive situations—and protect their pets and families.

The PAWS Act would expand federal law so that it includes protections for pets of domestic violence victims, and also strongly encourages all states to provide coverage for pets in protection orders.

Thankfully, more than 25 states have enacted similar legislation to safeguard pets in situations of domestic violence. But prior to the PAWS Act, federal legislation has failed to confront this issue.

Further, the PAWS Act requires convicted abusers to repay the full amount of victims’ losses for veterinary services needed for the treatment of their pets’ injuries.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month is a time to recommit ourselves to finding more solutions and work toward ending violence against women once and for all. I was proud to help introduce a resolution again this year designating October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, in support of advocates, first responders and victims who are deeply impacted by this terrible crime. But ending violence against women can’t be relegated to only one month a year. That’s why I’ve been so committed to fighting to pass a bill I helped introduce, the Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA), which takes important steps to prevent sexual violence on college campuses, support survivors, and hold colleges and universities accountable. You can learn more about this legislation and the other initiatives I’m working on related to preventing domestic and sexual violence on my website here.

I look forward to continuing my work to support New Hampshire’s advocates, crisis centers and important community resources, including PIRC. I’m going to keep fighting to get the PAWS Act signed into law.

Together, we can— and should—do better to prevent violence against women.


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Senator Kelly Ayotte, a Republican, is a U.S. Senator from New Hampshire.

To read Senator Ayotte’s full bio, click here

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: A Reminder of Our Perpetual Responsibility

By Representative Frank Guinta

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Prevention Innovations Research Center (PIRC) at the University of New Hampshire is doing important work to prevent sexual and domestic violence in our state. During Domestic Violence Awareness month and always, I am proud to join them to prevent violence of any kind.

Granite Staters’ safety and security is my highest priority in Congress, where I represent the First District, including the University of New Hampshire and almost 700,000 residents. Statistics show that a significant number of people will experience some form of physical abuse in their lives, domestic abuse a prevalent one. An intimate partner is typically the perpetrator. Both men and women may be victims, more often women.

Recognizing the warning signs and reporting abuse are critical to preventing such incidents, potential and real. By sharing information with a family member or friend, a trained professional or legal authority, a Granite Stater could save her life or that of another.

We as a nation must do our part. We must encourage victims to come forward and take a strong stand against criminal behavior. In 2016, it is staggering that debate surrounds what civil society and governments should do to eradicate this heinous crime.  Violence against women should be intolerable.

It should be punishable to the fullest extent of the law. As Manchester’s mayor, I worked with the police department to reduce crime by 17 percent. Law enforcement officers across New Hampshire are eager and able to help Granite Staters in times of need.

The New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (NHCADSV) serves almost 15,000 people every year, providing counseling and legal assistance. I recently joined the group to challenge a state Supreme Court decision reversing New Hampshire’s Rape Shield Law, which ensures that sexual violence victims’ personal histories remain so, inaccessible to criminals seeking to litigate their victims’ private lives.

We won our argument and preserved a key legal tool to prosecute criminal offenders. The Rape Shield Law also helps to remove public stigma that may discourage victims from seeking justice. In Congress, in partnership with NHCADSV and bipartisan colleagues, I have pursued other initiatives to improve the public response to sex crimes. I requested $40 million dollars from the House Appropriations Committee, $5 million above the President’s funding request, to bolster the Sexual Assault Services Program (SASP) at the Office of Violence Against Women.

The SASP provides medical and legal aid to survivors and their families, aid that dramatically increases their recovery rates and criminal prosecutions. Just last month, the House approved the Survivors Bill of Rights with my full support. Because a minority of survivors report rape, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), the bill requires authorities preserve forensic evidence, notify victims of results, and inform them of their rights under the law.

The Survivors Bill of Rights is just the latest effort in Congress to prevent sexual and domestic violence. My personal effort will continue long past October, a reminder of our perpetual responsibility to respect and protect victims of abuse, no matter their gender or station in life, and to serve justice.


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Congressman Frank Guinta, a Republican, is the  Representative from New Hampshire’s Second Congressional District.

To read Representative Guinta’s full bio, click here

Senator Shaheen Stands with Survivors this DVAM

By Senator Jeanne Shaheen

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On October 7th, 2016, just over a year after my initial meeting with sexual assault survivor Amanda Nguyen, my legislation to establish basic rights for survivors of sexual assault was signed into law by President Obama. The Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act, also known as the Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act of 2016, creates the first federally codified rights specifically for sexual assault survivors, and for the first time would allow survivors the opportunity to enforce those rights in federal court. Today I can say with certainty that our nation’s laws stand firmly on the side of sexual assault survivors. The basic rights in this new law include:

  • The right to have a sexual assault evidence collection kit preserved without charge for the entire relevant statute of limitations.
  • The right to be notified in writing 60 days prior to the destruction of a sexual assault evidence collection kit.
  • The right to request further preservation of a sexual assault evidence collection kit.
  • The right to be informed of important results of a sexual assault forensic examination.
  • The right to not be charged for a forensic exam.

While the journey to pass this groundbreaking legislation was a relatively short one, it follows a long path of survivors and advocates calling for change in our system. And when Amanda Nguyen walked into my office last summer and shared her heartbreaking story, I knew that changes had to be made to ensure the justice system was on survivors’ side. So, we got to work on legislation and with input from Amanda Nguyen and dozens of nationally-recognized experts in the sexual assault advocacy community, we developed a bill that garnered incredible bipartisan and bicameral support, shuttling it all the way to the President’s desk.

Amidst the partisan bickering and gridlock in Congress, this law demonstrates that citizens can still effect positive change and that bipartisan progress is still possible. Sexual assault remains one of the most underreported crimes and I hope that these basic rights will encourage more survivors to come forward and pursue justice. Make no mistake, there’s still much more work to be done to change the culture around sexual assault, and I will continue to lead efforts in the Senate for survivors like Amanda.


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Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, is a U.S. Senator from New Hampshire.

To read Senator Shaheen’s full bio, click here

Congresswoman Kuster Recognizes DVAM

By Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster

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This summer, I stood on the House floor and, for the first time, told my own story about my experiences with sexual assault.

Afterward, I was overwhelmed not only by the support that I received from my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, but by the kind messages from constituents across New Hampshire, some of whom came forward with their own stories. Speaking out for the first time, almost 40 years later, was not easy. But I’m hopeful that sharing my story may help survivors know they are not alone.

Unfortunately, many people never feel free to come forward after incidents like the ones that I experienced.  Data from RAINN, the nation’s largest sexual violence prevention network, shows that of every 1,000 sexual assaults that occur, only 344 are reported to police.  Common reasons cited for not reporting include fear of retaliation from the perpetrator and a belief that the police could not or would not be able to help.  Clearly, we must do better.  We must create a better culture where survivors are able to come forward without fear.

As we mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we can both celebrate the progress we have made and reflect upon the hard work that remains to be done to combat sexual violence—on our campuses, in our military, and throughout our communities.  There have been important steps forward.  This summer, amid public outrage about the lenient sentencing of former Stanford University student Brock Turner, I joined with 17 of my House colleagues to read on the House floor, Emily Doe’s open letter describing her attack and ensuing trial, marking the first time a victim’s statement has been read in full in the House chamber.

Additionally comprehensive federal regulations, following the bipartisan 2013 re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), now provide additional guidance to schools regarding campus sexual violence.  And earlier this month, President Obama signed into law the Survivors’ Bill of Rights, which, among other reforms, formally codifies that assault survivors have the right to receive a comprehensive forensic physical exam free of charge and to have their rape kits preserved.  Legislation like this helps demonstrate to survivors that we have their backs, and that every effort will be made to bring perpetrators to justice as swiftly as possible.

I was proud to cosponsor the House version of the Survivors’ Bill of Rights, but there are a number of other pieces of legislation for which I am advocating that are just as worthy of a vote on the floor—and President Obama’s signature.  They include:

  • H.R. 1310, the Campus Accountability and Safety Act; introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), this bipartisan legislation would strengthen Clery Act reporting requirements for schools that receive federal funding, as well as require them to develop enhanced campus security policies, among other changes.
  • H.R. 2680, the Hold Accountable and Lend Transparency on (HALT) Campus Sexual Violence Act.  Introduced by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), this legislation would require the Department of Education to publicly disclose schools that are under federal Title IX investigation, as well as strengthen penalties for schools that are in violation, among other reforms.
  • H.R. 1490, the SOS Campus Act.  Introduced by Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA), this legislation would require schools receiving federal funding to have designated independent advocates to focus on preventing and addressing campus sexual violence.
  • H.R. 5972, the Campus Sexual Assault Whistleblower Act; introduced by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), this legislation would provide protection for students that report sexual assault (either against themselves or others) against “honor code” violations or other retaliation from administrators.

Together, we must focus on preventing future incidences of campus sexual violence, and creating college climates in which victims feel comfortable reporting and perpetrators are held accountable.  We should learn from schools that are already leading the way in this area, and hold accountable institutions that are not.  I’m proud of UNH’s and PIRC’s innovative approach to combating sexual violence, on campus and elsewhere.  Research has shown that only a small percentage of people commit these crimes, meaning that the majority of people who don’t can be part of the solution.  Initiatives like Bringing in the Bystander and Know Your Power are crucial to bringing everyone together to work toward safer communities, and I look forward to continuing to support your efforts in Congress.


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Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster, a Democrat, is the  Representative from New Hampshire’s Second Congressional District.

To read Representative Kuster’s full bio, click here