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N.H. state representative says some people may ‘like being in abusive relationships’

Last modified: 2/27/2013 12:23:32 AM
Some people may like being in abusive relationships, and they’re free to leave them at any time, a state representative said yesterday during a debate on a bill to reduce the penalty for simple assault in some cases.

“Some people could make the argument that a lot of people like being in abusive relationships. It’s a love-hate relationship. It’s very, very common for people to stick around with somebody they love who also abuses him or her,” said Rep. Mark Warden, a Republican who represents Deering, Goffstown and Weare, during a meeting of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, according to a video provided by Granite State Progress, a liberal advocacy group.

According to the video, Warden added, “Is the solution to those kind of dysfunctional relationships going to be more government, another law? I’d say no. People are always free to leave.”

Warden, who is serving his second term in the House, declined yesterday to discuss his remarks, which Democrats and others quickly circulated in a truncated form on Twitter and Facebook.

“I’m sure it was taken out of context, but that’s all I’m going to say about it,” Warden said.

Warden spoke during the debate on a bill introduced by Derry Republican Rep. Frank Sapareto that would reduce simple assault from a misdemeanor crime to a violation-level offense in any case of “unprivileged physical contact” that “does not result in harm or injury.”

Sapareto has said the current law is too draconian, punishing people for minor incidents where no harm was done. But his bill was opposed by law enforcement officials and domestic-violence groups, who said it would make it more difficult to prosecute abuse cases.

The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee yesterday voted, 16-4, to recommend the full House kill the bill. Warden was one of the four votes in support of the bill.

There appeared to be little immediate reaction from committee members to Warden’s comments, based on the Granite State Progress video. Rep. Laura Pantelakos, the committee’s chairwoman, did tell Warden he was wrong that people are able to leave abusive relationships at any time.

“It didn’t dawn on them in the beginning,” Pantelakos said later in the day. “It wasn’t something they were expecting.”

Pantelakos said she disagrees with Warden: “We need to do everything we can to stop domestic violence. . . . I don’t think that’s government interfering with people’s lives.”

Amanda Grady Sexton, director of public policy at the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, attended yesterday’s hearing.

“Rep. Warden’s comments point to an overall lack of education around the dynamics involved in a domestic violence relationship. It can be incredibly difficult for a victim of domestic violence to leave because of how much power and control their abuser has over their lives,” she wrote in an email. “The simple truth is no one enjoys being assaulted by an abuser – and for anyone to say otherwise speaks from a place of ignorance.”

But Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, a Manchester Republican and committee member, noted the panel recommended killing the simple-assault bill by a wide margin. He said the Monitor was simply trying to gin up controversy by focusing on Warden’s comments.

The simple-assault bill will next go to the full House for a vote.

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or bleubsdorf@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)


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