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Standing up for privacy rights

If a stranger tapped another on the shoulder and inquired about their sexual history, the most germane response is "none of your damn business."

And so when it comes to digging into the sexual past of a rape victim, it’s none of our damn business.

But the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence says an unprompted decision from the state Supreme Court has raised a few eyebrows in that it could dismantle protection laws.

The coalition has joined more than a dozen organizations working with the family of 19-year-old Lizzi Marriott, a University of New Hampshire student raped and strangled to death four years ago, to keep intimate details of her sexual history sealed.

The Concord Monitor last week reported that the defense team for Seth Mazzaglia, who was convicted of Marriott’s murder in 2014 and is serving a life sentence without parole, filed an appeal questioning a lower court decision ruling that the victim’s sexual past was inadmissible at his trial.

Essentially, Mazzaglia is seeking to make her sexual past relevant, claiming "certain evidence" about her other relationships and interests should be available to his defense.

The state’s rape shield law exists to bar defendants from introducing evidence about previous sexual encounters in an effort to undercut the victim’s credibility.

But the Supreme Court, on its own, ruled that such documents in the Marriott case should be available once a case is appealed, threatening the shield laws regarding confidential evidence, such as sexual history.

The highest court in the state ruled that those privacy protections on appeal are superseded by public transparency, according to the coalition.

In the Marriott case, there is a growing movement to urge state and national media outlets to protect the privacy rights of Lizzi and other victims of such vile crimes.

The campaign argues that tossing out the rape shield statutes in New Hampshire would also put the statewide Victim’s Bill of Rights into jeopardy, setting back progress made in prosecuting sexual assault cases.

Victims of such crimes have already been through an unimaginable trauma that could have long-term physical, emotional and psychological affects.

The last thing victims need is to be shamed by the public, as if who has been in their bedroom justifies the behavior of an alleged attacker.