From the President: Legal Requirements Not Enough When It Comes to Abuse
The Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program (SHARPP) at UNH promotes awareness of sexual violence, relationship abuse and stalking and provides services for its victims, be they students, faculty or staff. While the organization is known primarily for dealing with adult sexual assault, they also are available to provide information and support to people who have witnessed such abuse.
“Every single person in the state of New Hampshire is mandated to report suspected child abuse,” says Mary Mayhew, director of SHARPP. “If someone had a concern or suspicion, SHARPP can help explain and support individuals through the reporting process.”
Mayhew stresses a reportable incident is one where there is suspected or alleged abuse against a minor; this may include physical, sexual or emotional abuse as well as incidents of neglect. If the offended person is now of legal age, mandatory reporting laws do not apply.
“New Hampshire’s mandatory child abuse reporting law refers to current abuse against a minor; however, if the abusive person has ongoing contact with other minors, it is also good practice to report this contact, in the interest of preventing potential future abuse.”Mayhew says.
SHARPP can provide aid or connect people with the services they need in such cases, whether they are survivors or witnesses to abuse.
“Sometimes people back away from situations because they don’t know how else to deal with them,” Mayhew says. “SHARPP can be a support system for people affected by witnessing abuse, helping individuals process feelings and explaining options and responsibilities.”
SHARPP, located in Wolff House on Pettee Brook Lane, is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The 24-hour help line is 603-862-SAFE (7233). The office number is 2-3493 or call toll-free at 1-888-271-7233; TTY: 1-800-735-2964. Language translation services are available.
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As the events at Penn State University remind us, it is essential that we each understand our personal and professional responsibilities to uphold both the letter and the spirit of our laws and policies in the fight against abuse.
At UNH, we take these obligations seriously. In the attached letter, the University System of New Hampshire’s legal counsel outlines your responsibility to report suspected abuse, harassment, and neglect.
As president of UNH, however, I believe that adhering to the minimum legal reporting requirements is not enough. Each of us in this great and diverse university community can, and should, also actively support efforts to prevent sexual and physical abuse and harassment at every level.
I urge you to read the attached letter carefully. I also urge you to become involved in raising awareness about these issues and to join our efforts to make UNH a safe, healthy environment for all.
Mark W. Huddleston