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New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence Seeks Justice for the Battered

By Elisha Neubauer

Domestic and sexual violence are very real issues women in America face on a daily basis. The statistics are unreal, and terrifying, causing many to look the other way rather than deal with the issues head on. For this reason, many organizations, coalitions, and groups rally together to support those battered and beaten women when society and the system fails them.

The New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence is one such organization. When they got their start, it was back in 1977, and, in truth, it was a bit rocky. Launched as the New Hampshire Coalition on Battered Women, the group was started address the critical issue of domestic violence. Within just a few months of its formation, they faced a very real threat to their purpose...one that was surprisingly brought on by their very own state government, the same people that should have been protecting and supporting their cause.

"The necessity of having a statewide grassroots organization to bring such issues into the public eye was reaffirmed when members of the State Commission on the Status of Women stated that 'feminism causes battering,'" explains Maureen McDonald, Community Relations Director. "The Coalition countered this false claim, distributing its first press release stating, 'It is outrageous and unconscionable to suggest wife beating is permissible under any circumstance.'"

Their fire behind the cause was quickly noticed, and by the end of the 1970s, they were no longer standing alone. "By the end of the '70s new local service groups were forming around the state; advocates were gaining footholds in the legislative process; and funding was beginning to be secured," McDonald tells us. "In the '80s, the Coalition was legally incorporated, having by then established its purpose, philosophy, and points of unity among its member groups."

Today, the Coalition partners with many law enforcement agencies, legislators, medical providers, and many other professional groups. They have worked hard to create protocols and programs on domestic violence and sexual assault that are widely respected nationwide, making great strides for the cause in their own right.

"Recently, we have worked to pass legislation that is helping our communities to respond more effectively to domestic violence by calling it what it is," McDonald details. "Joshua's Law, which was named for Joshua Savyon, an 11 year old boy killed by domestic violence, expressly created a domestic violence charge to cover cases of abuse involving intimate partners." It is scary to think that before the Coalition worked to pass this Joshua's Law that there was no actual crime for domestic violence in the state of New Hampshire.

"The law took charges that were commonly used in domestic violence related cases and pulled them under one crime called 'domestic violence,'" she explains. "By creating a specific crime of domestic violence, New Hampshire is now able to gather and maintain important statistics on domestic violence crimes occurring in the state." Thanks to this law, 5,700 people were charged under Joshua's Law in 2015 alone.

There's so much more to the Coalition than politics, though. They are constantly fighting for the faces behind the statistics in the only way they know how. "Our organization is continuing to fight to be a voice for victims in New Hampshire as well as on a federal level," says McDonald. "We seek to keep victims of sexual assault safe, preserve their dignity and help them seek justice."

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About The Author

Elisha Neubauer is a freelance editor, ghostwriter, book reviewer, and author. She is...

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