CONCORD – Victims of sexual assault and advocates testified Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee seeking to end the statute of limitations to bring civil lawsuits against abusers.
The proposed legislation, SB 508, was introduced by state Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth, and had quick support from Republican Gov. Chris Sununu.
Current law dictates when the victim was under the age of 18 at the time of their assault, action must be taken within twelve years of the person’s eighteenth birthday or three years after the time of discovery.
“The damage done by sexual assault never truly goes away,” Fuller Clark said. “We hear about cases from 20 or 30 years ago that would be winnable in court today, but prosecutors cannot move forward since the statute of limitations has passed. When we enact SB 508 and eliminate the statute of limitations, we give our court system the tools they need to build successful cases and give the survivors and their families the closure they deserve.”
Sununu sent a letter to Sen. Martha Hennessey, D-Hanover, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, urging the committee and the full Senate and House to pass the bill.
“Such an action will send the message to victims, survivors and their families that we stand with them, and that we will not allow the law to place a limit on their access to justice,” Sununu wrote.
Sununu also backed separate legislation that was submitted by Sen. Hennessey introducing a comprehensive sexual assault education and prevention plan for New Hampshire colleges and universities.
SB 679-FN mandates higher education institutions to adopt comprehensive policies and procedures in relation to sexual assault including educational information, awareness, programming, a campus safety officer, and confidential resources, according to a news release.
All programs and positions enacted by the institution would be aimed at combating sexual assault and violence on campus.
After the hearing, Hennessey said: “Every student has the right to feel safe when they walk through campus. We are more aware than ever of the destructive and frequent nature of sexual assault. In New Hampshire, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 20 men have been assaulted and 83% of those assaults happen before the victim is 25.
“It is our job as public servants to do everything we can to protect students on our college and university campuses. By continuing to open up the dialogue and providing more resources at these institutions we are giving our students the best chance at a safe and secure education.”