Lynch extends statute of limitations on self-reporting of child abuse
PORTSMOUTH — A new law, signed by Governor John Lynch on Tuesday, Sept. 2, extends the statute of limitations for residents in civil cases to report they have been victims of child abuse.
Jennifer Devarie, Public Policy Specialist for the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, said victims now have until the age of 30 to report that they were sexually abused as a child.
“In 2005, SB75 passed and extended the civil statute by three years giving seven years from the age of 18, making it to age 25. Three years later we came back and extended it to 30,” Devarie said. “There are a lot of states who have completely eliminated the limitations for both criminal and civil cases. Legislators realized the trauma involved in being assaulted by someone they trusted. We are taking baby steps in New Hampshire but we are increasing it.”
Devarie testified at the hearing that preceded SB311 being passed Tuesday.
“The original bill gave victims to age 40, to match the criminal statue,” she said. “It was amended in the Senate so it’s a compromise. An increase from 25 to 30 might not seem like much of an increase, but we look at where a survivor is in their lives as far as being able to disclose the abuse, being able to face the abuser. Survivors are generally sexually abused by people in their lives. Most are someone they trust or a family friend. It’s in their 30s, sometimes closer to 40s that most people start talking about the abuse. We know that survivors have a difficult time disclosing and often don’t do so until later in life. Hopefully this will help some in seeking the justice they need.”
Amanda Grady, Public Policy Director with the NHCADSV said she recognizes legislators’ commitment to this issue.
“During the 2008 Session the legislature closed many loopholes within our sexual assault statutes,” Grady said. “New Hampshire’s sexual assault laws are now some of the strongest in the nation. We applaud the Senate and House for their ongoing commitment to the issue of childhood sexual abuse.”
Before the statutory change in 2005, a childhood victim only had until the age of 21 to file suit. The new bill will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2009.
With assistance from NHCADSV, “The Child Victims Act Coalition,” a group devoted to seeking justice for child sex abuse victims in New Hampshire, helped to move the legislation forward.