Advancing Policy on Behalf of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Victims
Partners’ Policy Work Addresses Gaps in the Law
The provisions of New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act and Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act provide survivors of intimate partner violence and sexual assault with robust legal protections. Nevertheless, gaps in implementation harm survivors, such as
- Failure to timely order financial support for the survivor and shared children, often leading a financially dependent survivor to reunify with the abusive partner;
- Obstacles to victims obtaining their own police reports and photographs, sometimes resulting in the victim being unable to prove in family court that the defendant committed an act of domestic violence after a police officer found probable cause to arrest the defendant for the very same criminal conduct; and
- Delays in police service of defendants, resulting in restraining orders that offer limited protections to victims.
Partners strives for systemic change that can benefit all survivors, including the vast majority of whom navigate the courts on their own. We do this by serving on court committees, proposing new policies, providing comments on regulations and rule changes, working to inform legislators about the impact of proposed bills, taking appeals, and filing friend of the court briefs in cases that implicate the constitutional rights of survivors of intimate partner violence and sexual assault.
Our policy work addresses systemic practices to benefit domestic violence and sexual assault victims. Partners’ goals are to:
- Enhance Victim Safety
- Expand Access to Justice
- Protect Children of Domestic Violence
Enhance Victim Safety
The intersecting criminal justice, family and social service systems strive to enhance safety for domestic violence victims and promote accountability among abusers, but gaps in protection leave victims feeling vulnerable to additional abuse and trauma, even when they have the courage to report abuse.
Expand Access to Justice
In courtrooms every day, Partners has first-hand knowledge of the challenges survivors encounter in navigating the courts without legal representation, financial resources, or English proficiency. Partners is dedicated to expanding access to justice so that victims are heard in court, understand court processes, and are able to obtain meaningful protection from further abuse and can safely leave their abusers.
PROTECT CHILDREN OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Children often witness acts of domestic violence and experience trauma, as a result of exposure to violence in the home. In addition, they suffer direct economic impacts. Partners seeks to secure custody and safe visitation arrangements and to address systemic barriers to securing and collecting child support.
Our Advocacy Work During the Pandemic
COVID-19 has contributed to increased rates of domestic violence across the country. Partners and Seton Hall Law School Center for Social Justice, with assistance from McCarter & English, LLP, have examined the possible causes for the heightened prevalence and severity of domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic in a report, The Impact of COVID-19 Intensifies the Shadow Pandemic of Domestic Violence in New Jersey. The report examines how the economic consequences of COVID-19 are increasing the danger for domestic violence victims, and how COVID-19 has allowed people who abuse their intimate partners to exercise power and control in new ways and recommends steps to provide survivors with essential resources.
Throughout the pandemic, Partners has advocated for domestic violence victims, focusing on victims’ access to the courts. The judiciary has taken critical steps to reduce the substantial obstacles that domestic violence victims must clear in seeking legal relief while trapped in dangerous homes with limited access to technology or privacy, but barriers to court-ordered protection persist.
Partners’ pandemic policy work supports:
- Keeping the family court open for victims applying for restraining orders who may wish to avoid reporting their complaints to the police;
- Supporting technology access for victims with assistance from the courts;
- Informing victims in criminal cases that no contact orders have been entered and providing them with information about how to enforce those orders or to modify them (See S2523 and A4590);
- Ensuring that information from the courts about COVID court procedures and operations is available in multiple languages so that those with limited English proficiency are able to understand changing court practices;
- Preserving information and support for victims, including access to crisis response teams and court advocates; and
- Reducing barriers to protection, caused by prolonged court cases, lack of legal representation, lack of emergency financial relief, and uncertainty about court procedures.