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
BLAME AND SHAME HAVE NO PLACE IN SASPA PROCEEDINGS
On September 28, 2021, the New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously ruled in CR v. MT that in all cases under the Sexual Assault Survivors Protection Act (SASPA), the central question is whether the sexual conduct occurred without the victim’s affirmative and freely given consent. Justice Pierre-Louis, in overturning the appellate court, opined: “In 2021, we cannot and should not go back and time to a period when it was the norm to shame, blame, and prosecute victims.” All too often sexual assaults are facilitated by the victim’s consumption of alcohol. The Court’s ruling ensures that in all SASPA cases the rightful focus is on whether sexual conduct was nonconsensual.
Partners is proud to have submitted an amicus (friend of the court) brief in this matter and that the Court adopted the position and rationale which Partners and others advanced Thank you to C.J. Griffin and Pashman Stein Walder Hayden P.C. for representing Partners and the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault in this important case. Congratulations to South Jersey Legal Services, Inc., Legal Services of New Jersey, and Rutgers Domestic Violence Clinic and Domestic Violence Project (Rutgers Law School).
Supporting Immigrant Survivors
The primary language for almost half of Partners’ clients is Spanish, and a significant subset of them have families with mixed immigration and citizenship status. Many of our clients, as well as immigrant survivors, overall, face language, cultural, financial, and legal barriers to justice. For survivors who do not speak English and do not have a lawyer, the challenges in understanding court processes can discourage them from seeking a restraining order. Court rules and practices on the admission of foreign language evidence can result in the exclusion of relevant evidence and ultimately the denial of a restraining order. Partners advocates to ensure access to restraining orders for litigants who do not speak or read English.
Partners supports the broader demands for expanding immigrant rights by Make the Road New Jersey, the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, including extending the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund, defending and making permanent the Immigrant Trust Directive, and working to ensure access to driver’s licenses for all qualified drivers.
Addressing the digital Divide During COVID
As COVID-19 becomes endemic and courts can reopen with adequate safety precautions, Partners welcomes the judiciary’s decision to prioritize in-person trials for final restraining orders.
Court processes developed during the pandemic resulted in marked changes for restraining order cases. For many victims without computers, their cell phone become their courtroom when the courts moved to trials over Zoom. While juggling childcare responsibilities, many of our survivors were isolated in their homes with limited access to quality Wi-Fi and without the necessary resources to navigate a virtual court hearing. To learn more about Partners’ priorities, click here.
Educating the Legislative and Executive Branches about intimate Partner and Sexual Violence
Partners is a source of information about the need for and impact of proposed legislation and regulations.
2022 Legislative Agenda:
• S1810/ A1463 clarifies penalties related to violations of criminal no contact orders, and requires prosecutors to provide the victim with a copy of the no contact order. Passed full Assembly vote on Feb. 28, 2022.
• S1000/A1704 requires domestic violence orders to be available in other languages.
• A229 establishes standards for abuse intervention programs, and an Abuse Intervention Advisory Committee.
• A227 establishes uniform standards for police to strengthen survivor access to crisis response team advocates.
2021—2021 Legislative Successes for which Partners Provided Testimony and Support: