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. Access to justice is the ability of anyone, regardless of their socio-economic status, access to counsel, race, immigration status, gender identity, language, education, or disability, to navigate the legal system to advocate for themselves and their interests. Partners collaborates with county and state domestic violence working groups, domestic violence agencies and the judiciary to advance practices and procedures to improve fairness, efficiency and accessibility.

Fighting for Sexual Assault Victims

Partners Submits Friend of the Court Brief on Behalf of Alcohol-Impaired Sexual Assault Victims

Interior of an empty courtroom with gavel and sounding block on the desk.

The New Jersey Supreme Court is considering an appeal of the 2019 Appellate Division ruling in C.R. v. M.T., where a sexual abuse victim sought a protective order under the Sexual Assault Survivors Protection Act (SASPA). The Appellate Division held that an alcohol-impaired sexual assault victim must prove that she was incapable of consenting to sexual conduct due to intoxication to win protection under SASPA. We joined the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NJCASA) in preparing a friend of the court brief. The brief argues:

“Sexual penetration, and lewdness are inherently nonconsensual if a victim is too intoxicated to consent, regardless of whether that intoxication was because an intoxicant was unknowingly administered to the victim or because they knowingly and willingly consumed intoxicants (as so many people in our society do frequently).  Stated differently, consent cannot be “affirmative and freely-given” if a person is impaired by drugs or alcohol. . . . To conclude otherwise would give perpetrators a green light to sexually contact or penetrate those who are far too intoxicated to consent.”

If this ruling stands, victims of alcohol-facilitated sexual assault would bear a heavy and unfair burden to establish the degree of impairment and, in effect, put the victim on trial for her alcohol use, rather than focusing on the defendant’s conduct.

Protecting Immigrant Victims

Partners is addressing obstacles for foreign language speakers in offering evidence at final restraining order hearings and supporting allies through the defense of the Immigrant Trust Directive and adding Partners’ voice to the successful campaign for legislation for expanded access to driver’s licenses. 

Let’s Drive NJ Campaign

We supported the Let’s Drive legislation, signed into law in December 2019, to enable domestic violence victims, including immigrants without legal status, as well as other marginalized individuals, to obtain a driver’s license and make it easier for them to obtain work in hard-to reach areas of the state. Domestic violence victims often flee for their safety and may lack access to the required documents.

Check out the Insider NJ article announcing Partners’ support of the Let’s Drive NJ Campaign.

Partners provided comments on the draft regulations, resulting in an important change in policy, to permit survivors of intimate partner violence not to disclose their address.

Immigrant Trust Directive

We joined with the ACLU of New Jersey and 45 other organizations in filing a brief to defend New Jersey’s Immigrant Trust Directive, which restores trust in law enforcement among New Jersey’s immigrant community. Immigrant women are especially vulnerable to domestic violence because of their immigration status, language and cultural barriers, social isolation, and lack of financial resources. Victims of intimate partner violence, regardless of their immigration status, need to feel safe to contact the police for help.

For more information, check out the following:

Ocean County v. Grewal/ Nolan v. Grewal

How the Immigrant Trust Directive Changes Law Enforcement Practices

Educating the Legislative and Executive Branches about domestic violence

Partners is a source of information about the need for and impact of proposed legislation and regulations. Partners supports pending bills to train municipal prosecutors (S386 /A1763), provide temporary restraining orders in multiple languages (A1078 / S1146), and create a task force to expand access to counsel (AJR 30, SJR 36). Partners also supports new regulations intended to expand access to victims of crime compensation funding. For more information on this issue, check out Partners’ comments on the regulations. 

Strengthening the Criminal Justice Response to Nonfatal Strangulation

Partners thanks Sen. Teresa Ruiz for her legislative leadership in successfully strengthening New Jerseys’ response to nonfatal strangulation, a particularly dangerous and life threatening act of domestic violence. S2503/A4588, awaiting the governor’s signature, will increase the penalty for nonfatal strangulation in a domestic violence case to a crime of second degree. Nonfatal strangulation is linked to a seven-fold increase in the likelihood of homicide. [1] Victims are often subjected to repeated non-fatal strangulation assaults which, even when death does not result, can cause traumatic brain injury, in addition to other long-term health consequences. For more information, check out Partners’ testimony in support of this bill.

[1]Glass, Nancy, et al., Non-fatal strangulation is an important risk factor for homicide of women, 35 The Journal of Emergency Medicine 7 (2008).