New Hampshire lawmakers heard hours of testimony Tuesday on a bill that would require corroborating evidence in sexual assault cases where the defendant has no prior convictions.
The room was packed with people protesting the bill, many of them wearing pink “I believe victims” stickers. Meanwhile those backing the legislation sported their own stickers: These read “Justice for Foad.”
That’s a reference to New Hampshire psychotherapist Foad Afshar, who was convicted last year of molesting one of his underage patients. Rep. William Marsh, the bill’s main sponsor, drafted the bill after learning about Afshar’s case.
Marsh argued current law does not provide enough protection against false accusations of rape.
But those against the measure said requiring sexual assault victims to provide corroboration would be “irresponsible” and nothing short of a “rapist shield law”.
Including Angie, who told lawmakers she was raped by someone she lived with when she was 11-years-old.
“This is telling us that children will be turned away because they don’t have a witness or DNA to their crimes – how sick is that? What message is that sending?”
Several attorneys, sexual assault advocates and law enforcement officials including Nashua Police Chief Andrew Lavoie stressed that sexual crimes often occur in private and without evidence.
“It’s my opinion and long-established practice that a judge and jury are the ones who determine a victim’s credibility, with all due respect, not the legislature. Especially not with a blanket ruling that clearly discriminates against sexual assault victims," Lavoie said.
"I feel this is a tremendous overreach and would have a tremendous chilling effect on what is already one of the most underreported crimes.”