New laws in NJ aim to improve treatment of domestic violence survivors
As part of an effort to encourage victims of domestic violence to step forward and seek justice, New Jersey has new laws that establish mandatory domestic violence training for new municipal prosecutors, assistant county prosecutors, law enforcement officers, judges and judicial staff on how to handle these cases.
According to Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz, R-Union, work began on the legislation seven years ago when she was appointed to a committee on domestic violence.
“What we saw was there was an inconsistency in the way that victims of domestic violence were treated across the state. We cannot blame a victim of this,” she said.
She said it became apparent those involved in law enforcement on all different levels needed to be on the same page when dealing with domestic violence survivors.
Uniform training is needed
“We were looking to make sure that how they were treated in the north or the south was the same as the east and the west, and that there would be a consistency and uniform standards," Munoz said.
She said it's imperative when domestic violence victims come forward, as they go through the system. “They weren’t made to feel ashamed for either reporting it or having been a victim of it and to be believed.”
Munoz said if the system is going to work we need to make sure prosecutors judges and officers of the lawv“understand domestic violence and understand the impact it has on children, on trauma and the survivors, you know we have to be very careful to not blame the victim.”
Worse during the pandemic
According to the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence, requests for domestic violence services jumped 20% in 2020 when the pandemic first began. Many domestic violence programs have reported calls for help spiked between 40% and 70% compared to the prior year.
Muoz said when local police are first called to the scene of a domestic violence dispute and allegations are made, “they need to be educated and trained on how to treat these victims, and to listen to the story."
She noted health care providers already get domestic violence training, which makes it easier for victims to feel safe coming forward.
The new law stipulates this training must be completed within 90 days, then a refresher course will be given annually.
The legislation, A-1763/S-386 and A-1964 and S-384, was signed by Gov. Phil Murphy earlier this week.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.