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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

One year after her son’s death, Becky Ranes of Amherst celebrates NH’s new domestic violence laws

CONCORD – Fighting back tears, Becky Ranes celebrated the signing of a domestic violence reform law in the name of her son, Joshua, killed by her estranged father Aug. 11, 2013.

“As Joshua’s mother, it was important to me to support this legislation in his memory,” Ranes said Tuesday to a roomful of advocates, lawmakers and law enforcement leaders in the Executive Council chambers. ...

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CONCORD – Fighting back tears, Becky Ranes celebrated the signing of a domestic violence reform law in the name of her son, Joshua, killed by her estranged father Aug. 11, 2013.

“As Joshua’s mother, it was important to me to support this legislation in his memory,” Ranes said Tuesday to a roomful of advocates, lawmakers and law enforcement leaders in the Executive Council chambers.

“I wanted to do something that would help lessen the chances of losing another child in New Hampshire to domestic violence. Joshua’s Law will do just that,” Ranes said.

Joshua Savyon, was killed by his father, Muni Savyon, during a court-
ordered supervised visit at a Manchester YWCA visitation center.

Muni Savyon, who fatally turned the gun on himself, was under a domestic violence protective
order because he had threatened to kill both Joshua and Becky Ranes, of Amherst.

Gov. Maggie Hassan hosted a ceremony that marked her signing of six bills to protect victims of domestic violence, rape, sex trafficking and animal cruelty.

“This is an extraordinary group of citizens and survivors who became advocates and brought us all together,” Hassan said.

Joshua’s Law reorganized disparate criminal penalties into a single statute on domestic violence.

Sen. Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, and its prime author, said this separate crime makes it both easier to prosecute and to track the incidence of domestic violence.

Police and prosecutors have previously charged abusers with simple assault which can take the form of anything from a barroom brawl between two men to a domestic beating.

New Hampshire had been one of only 15 states without a separate criminal designation.

Deputy General Ann Rice noted domestic violence is involved in half of the homicides committed in New Hampshire and 92 percent of the murder-suicides.

Advocates say creating this new crime would also increase due process rights for the accused and retain discretion for law enforcement.

The language in the bill (SB 317) mirrors the federal domestic violence law and requires prosecutors to prove the incident involves family or household members or those in an intimate relationship.

Soucy said all these measures only became possible because Ranes and others were willing to relate their harrowing tales.

“People have come forward to tell their stories; it made all the difference,” Soucy said.

House Republican Leader Gene Chandler, R-Bartlett, said this amount of legislation making sweeping changes became possible because GOP and Democratic lawmakers forged consensus.

“In my mind, they are overdue but these things take time,” Chandler said.

“We need to continue to be at the forefront of fighting domestic violence.”

Here’s a sampling of the other changes lawmakers made during the 2014 session on this front:

Rape Custody Reform (SB 253): Sen. Bette Lasky, D-Nashua, championed this one to make it harder for rapists to contend for custody of children born from the assault.

Sex Trafficking (SB 317): While New Hampshire adopted one of the nation’s first such crimes, its penalties over time lagged behind other states. This will move the state from second-worst to being aligned with best practices of states according to a national authority on the subject.

This law will also allow victims for the first time to sue in civil court for damages against those who have enslaved them.

Employment Protections (SB 390): This bans the threatening to fire, dismissal, demotion or discrimination in the workplace for any victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.

Animal Cruelty (HB 1410): This permits a judge to order a domestic abuser stay away from the household pet if there’s been evidence of past cruelty to the animal.

Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Landrigan on Twitter (@Klandrigan).