My name is Lissa Curtis and I am a sexual assault survivor. I know all too well how difficult it is for survivors to find the courage and the strength to come forward and report what happened to them. As a survivor, I understand what it’s like to have no power, no control, and feel completely alone. It breaks my heart to know that survivors are made to feel this way all over again due to the inequities in our criminal justice system.
I’m still in awe of the amazing survivors that testified last week in support of Marsy's Law for NH and I had hoped the committee would hear us and stand with us. I’m disappointed in their recommendation against the bill an I will continue to fight for the constitutional rights that survivors need and deserve.
I am Linda Twombly a 44 year resident of Nashua, New Hampshire. I’ve raised my family here and I am very involved in many community efforts. I care deeply about my family, my neighbors and my city. That is why I believe we must pass CACR22, or Marsy’s Law, and assure constitutional rights for crime victims in NH.
Too many in our community have become victims of crimes ranging from burglary to domestic violence, sexual assault to murder, a total of 2400 victims in 2017 were counseled by Bridges. And too often, victims of these crimes are re-victimized by the criminal justice system.
It’s unconscionable that we have allowed so many of our neighbors over the years to be exposed to additional abuses by their predators, and that defendants are able to so easily abuse the system to intimidate and silence their victims. It must stop.
If a person who has been kidnapped and raped in front of their children doesn’t deserve basic Constitutional protections – then, who does? Carissa's Story
I have been a New Hampshire resident for nearly 25 years and I’m a proud Granite Stater – I’m also a survivor of sexual assault. I’m a survivor who knows from firsthand experience that statutory rights are insufficient in making sure victims’ rights are upheld and respected.
In 2000, I was kidnapped and raped by a stranger while out for a walk in Weathersfield, Vermont with my two young children. My oldest was three and my youngest was just fourteen months. I was threatened with a tire iron and sexually assaulted in front of my two children. I somehow managed to convince him to let us go and I immediately reported the assault to law enforcement.
Like most people, I don’t like to think of myself as a victim; I am a survivor.
Unfortunately, there’s no denying that I was recently re-victimized by the criminal justice system here in New Hampshire.
When I was just four years old, the innocence I had as a child was stripped away by terror and fear at the hands of an adult who was supposed to love and protect me.
Although my abuser was convicted for some of the crimes he committed against me, I continued to struggle to escape the memories of what happened during my childhood in New Hampshire. I needed to get away, so I left the state and started a new life, trying to leave the pain behind me.
As an adult, I thought I had finally overcome my past. I realized I was wrong the day that I received a phone call from an investigator who told me that for almost 2 years, my abuser had been working with the ACLU to get him and hundreds of others removed from the state’s public sex offender registry.
The ACLU tried to paint my offender as a poor old man who was being victimized by the State’s sex offender laws. He was being used as the poster boy in an effort to allow hundreds of the most dangerous sexual predators to petition to be removed from the public sex offender list in New Hampshire.
Yes, the man who so viciously abused me was now claiming that he should be able to be removed from the sexual offender registry because it was stopping him from gaining subsidized housing. It was appalling to hear that he was asking the courts to erase his crimes so he could have a free place to live.
Sadly, almost two years had gone by without anyone notifying me of this process, and without ever giving me the opportunity to be heard on the matter.
In the midst of ACLU’s work to allow my offender off of the registry, he was charged with a felony after failing to notify police that he had an active Facebook page that he was using to reach out to more children. At that time, I worked to submit a statement to the court outlining my concerns. I wanted the opportunity to share with the court why his recent behavior was significant, as it showed that he will continue to break the law in order to gain access to children. Sadly, the judge refused to accept my statement and I was denied the right to be heard - again.
I’m not sure how the court can truly determine the level of dangerousness of an offender if they don’t fully understand what the offender has done. After nearly a decade of witnessing the tactics used by this man to gain access to children, I hold critical information that the courts should know prior to setting bail, or ordering supervision or treatment.
I cannot describe the feelings of hurt I experienced when being left out and ignored by the courts. I cannot describe the fear of how the courts would act without being given an accurate picture of the offender and his ongoing patterns of abuse.
In fact, there was never even a mention made of the victim during these cases. No mention of that four-year old girl who was afraid to get up and use the bathroom in the middle of the night because she might be beaten. No mention of his true risk to children.
At that point I knew I had to do more to ensure that New Hampshire’s system of justice was reformed, so I began working with advocates and legislators to make sure that victims had a voice in the system. I began by working to improve the statutes, but the reality is that we could spend our lives working to improve statutory laws, but the system would still be heavily stacked against victims of crime. Until we provide victims with Constitutional rights, the system of justice will remain broken.
During the Senate hearing on this bill, I listened to the testimony of the ACLU and Buzz Scherr, a law professor who serves on their board of directors. Some members of this legislature have told me that they have been surprised that the ACLU has come out opposed to this bill. I will not question their motivation for opposing this bill, but I will point out that this organization has worked for many years to advance the rights of sexual offenders, but not to advance the rights of victims of child sexual abuse.
In my case, they went out of their way to try to help my offender and 850 other child rapists to be removed from the public registry – without even working to build in a legal requirement for victims of these offenders to be notified or given the opportunity to be heard. This same organization has represented the “National Association of Man Boy Love” – a group that shows members how to sexually assault young boys without getting caught. That said, I’m not surprised that the ACLU does not believe that victims deserve the same level of rights as rapists.
I don’t think that victims deserve more rights than those that are accused and convicted of a crime – but we do deserve the same level of rights as those who victimize us. We should not have statutory rights while our offenders have the weight of the state and US Constitution behind them.
Unfortunately, I know firsthand why statutory protections for victims are not sufficient and why victims of crime in New Hampshire need Constitutional rights. I have seen the inadequacies of the current Victims’ Bill of Rights and it’s time for us to make a change.
In the early 1970’s, my sister, Lee Ann Greeley, was murdered in New Hampshire. In 1975, the man that murdered her was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Two years later, in 1977, her murderer jumped a wall at the state prison and escaped. My family was never notified that the man that took my sister’s life had escaped and that his whereabouts was unknown. He was out in the community for 2 weeks and no one thought to call us. We found out that he had escaped by reading it in a local paper that said he had been caught and returned to jail.
After enduring the loss of my sister and working with my family to try to put the pieces of our lives back together, I can tell you that not much scares me anymore. But, the thought of that monster showing up at my doorstep, or harming another member of my family, terrifies me. At the very least, we deserve to know when he is no longer behind bars and our safety could be at risk.
Marsy’s Law will provide victims with a Constitutional right to be notified of the escape of a convicted criminal. It baffles me that this right is not already enshrined in the state Constitution – but here we are. This step is critical towards changing the culture of our criminal justice system and making sure victims of crime are not an afterthought. Statutory protections just simply don’t have the weight behind them that constitutional rights do. This is something not only I have known for decades, but something 35 other states in our country have recognized as well.
The pattern of re-victimization that our family endured during our participation in the criminal justice system did not stop there.
In 1988, despite his escape, my sister’s murderer was granted parole. Once again, my family was never notified. We did not know that he was even up for parole, we were never given notice of the parole hearing, and we did not have the opportunity to speak at the hearing to share how devastated our family was as a result of his heinous act.
With the current statutory rights provided to victims, the best we could get from the parole board was “I’m sorry”, and we didn’t even get that. There was no recourse or means for ensuring that our voices would be heard before the man that murdered my sister was released.
A few years after being let out on parole, he was charged with sexually assaulting an 11-year-old boy and his parole was revoked.
Had we had the Constitutional rights to be notified of and heard at the hearing, we would have been able to tell the parole board how dangerous this man truly was – they would have had to recognize our Constitutional right and consider our perspective. Marsy’s Law would not require the parole board to reverse their decision, but they would have the opportunity to grant a do-over if they determined it was valid and necessary based on what we shared.
Had we had the recourse provided by Constitutional rights, there is a chance that his parole could have been revoked. There is a chance that knowing what this man was capable of would have allowed the parole board to change their minds. There is a chance that he would have been sent back to prison before he had the opportunity to rape that young boy. There is a chance that this heinous crime could’ve been prevented.
It still haunts me to this day that I was not given the opportunity to address the parole board and that the lack of teeth behind our limited statutory rights could be the reason that that little boy was assaulted. Having enforceable Constitutional rights would’ve at least made sure that the parole board had all of the relevant information before releasing a dangerous predator back into society.
There is no way for this recourse to have been accomplished through statute – that is precisely why we are here.
It’s bad enough that the parole board was able to make a determination about the dangerousness of a murderer without hearing from the very people that his actions impacted. But, to know that there is no enforcement mechanism behind our statutory rights, to know that our rights were essentially meaningless, to know that the lack of consideration for victims in our current system could have led to the victimization of a child – that is unacceptable.
Victims in New Hampshire need Constitutional protections because statutory rights are not sufficient. I ask you all to please support CACR 22 and make sure victims of crime have the rights that they so desperately need and deserve – we’ve already been through too much.
NH CRIME VICTIMS AND ADVOCATES TESTIFY IN SUPPORT OF MARSY’S LAW
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Amanda Grady Sexton (603) 548-9377
NEW HAMPSHIRE CRIME VICTIMS TO TESTIFY IN SUPPORT OF CACR 22, MARSY’S LAW
Victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, and families of homicide victims will testify on Tuesday, April 10th in support of establishing constitutional rights for victims of crime in NH
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Amanda Grady Sexton (603) 548-9377
NEW HAMPSHIRE’S 13 CRISIS CENTERS ENDORSE CACR 22, MARSY’S LAW
Victim Advocates from Across NH Announce Support for Constitutional
Amendment for Crime Victims’ Rights in New Hampshire
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Amanda Grady Sexton (603) 548-9377
By Sandi Matheson, former Director of the Office of Victim/Witness Assistance at the New Hampshire Department of Justice
Marsy’s Law for New Hampshire represents two decades of advocates’ work to establish enforceable rights for victims of crime. It is not a new or out-of-state initiative, but one that advocates in the Granite State have been preparing for since the 1990s.
Twenty-five years ago, as the former Director of the Office of Victim and Witness Assistance at the New Hampshire Department of Justice, I joined my colleagues in a report detailing New Hampshire’s progress on victims’ initiatives that recommended the passage of a constitutional amendment for victims rights.
Our efforts were part of the nationwide victims’ rights movement that began in the 1970s, when many realized that as a public prosecution system became the norm and victims were pushed to the margins, the criminal justice system had become appallingly out of balance. Changes were made to state statutes and constitutions, as well as federal statutes, to define and afford explicit legal status to crime victims.
Since then, all 50 states have enacted statutory and rule-based protections for victims and more than 30 states have amended their constitutions to provide enforceable, enumerated rights for victims of crime. While these protections vary from state to state, they are all aimed at reintegrating the victim into the criminal and juvenile justice systems, as our founders intended when victims were responsible for prosecuting their own cases.
In 1991, New Hampshire was one of the last states to pass a Victims Bill of Rights statute. Today, we find ourselves in a similar position--we are 1 of just fifteen states that has not yet enshrined victims’ rights in our state constitution.
While we are fortunate to have a “Victim’s Bill of Rights,” it is no longer enough. Victims are still being lost in the shuffle and often their rights are being trumped by the rights of the accused and convicted. Marsy’s Law for NH would guarantee victims basic, enforceable rights equal to those of the accused and convicted - no more, no less. CACR 22 does not take away any of the rights of the accused or the convicted. Instead, it provides crime victims with equal rights and ensures they have a meaningful voice in the criminal justice system.
For 25 years, we’ve been working towards this goal. It is past time to move forward with Marsy’s Law for New Hampshire.